New Hanover Co. wants to explore merging fire service with City of Wilmington


WILMINGTON, NC (NEWS RELEASE) — Today, New Hanover County asked the City of Wilmington to jointly participate in a study as the next step in looking at options for the city and county governing boards to consider in providing fire service to the community. Fire service is one of several areas City Manager Sterling Cheatham and County Manager Chris Coudriet have discussed over the last several months about how the city and county might work more collaboratively to reduce costs or increase service.

Coudriet sent Cheatham a letter asking the city to partner with the county to commission a study to identify any efficiencies that could be achieved through further partnering of the two fire departments. The letter went on to state that the study “evaluate the current conditions of each agency, including their organization structure, staffing, capital assets,
and service delivery; and future opportunities for cooperative efforts, including multiple
options for shared services up to and including consolidation.”

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The request grew out of an initial conversation held between City Council and County commissioners during a joint work session held Aug. 9, 2012 to discuss several issues, including possible options for future collaboration between the two governments.

At two subsequent staff meetings over the last few months, the managers discussed several common services areas that could feasibly be considered for further review, with fire service
being one that could be looked at in the short term.

If the elected bodies agree to study the fire issue further by conducting a study, they will be asked to split the cost, estimated at $50,000. At this point, no dates for any specific actions have been scheduled.

The feasibility of further review of other service areas will continue over the next several months.

“As public dollars continue to shrink, we must responsibly look for ways to save money
while also maintaining our high level of service,” said City Manager Sterling Cheatham. “We
must ensure that both city and county residents benefit from any further collaboration.”

“This is part of our ongoing effort to explore shared and reduced costs without compromising
on service delivery,” said County Manager Chris Coudriet. “This study, if agreed to, is simply the first step in determining what is feasible, and comes as a suggestion after several conversations with city leadership and the board of commissioner’s expectations to look harder at local partnerships.”