This Department is one of the most progressive I have seen in this area. Seem to want to be a leader in everything.

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St. Petersburg Times--South Pinellas

Pinellas County Fla
Seminole officials want master fire/EMS plan
City officials will vote Tuesday on hiring an independent consultant to create a master plan for a more efficient department.
By MAUREEN BYRNE AHERN
St. Petersburg Times
published April 6, 2003

SEMINOLE -- City officials want to hire an independent consultant to conduct an analysis of the fire department and to develop a master plan, which could result in such major changes as relocating fire stations, changing employees' duties and ending contracts with nearby communities.

If the City Council approves of the consultant, the city could spend up to $95,000 for the project.

City Manager Frank Edmunds says Seminole would use the master plan as a tool for guiding the fire department. "The information provided to us will allow us to make good cost-efficient decisions for the future," he said. "My suspicion is we're probably not at the optimum efficiency."

The study will be paid with money the city saved after it switched insurance plans and providers last year. Payment for the project is included in an ordinance that reallocates funds within the fire department.

The council will vote on the ordinance Tuesday. If the measure passes, the bid process would open April 14. The city would hire a company in June, and the study would be completed by mid-September.

Edmunds said the analysis would help the city answer some questions. How will the district be impacted if it loses some of its tax base to Pinellas Park? Should the city repair its aging fire stations or consider building new ones in other locations? Is it in the city's best financial interest to continue providing fire service to two beach communities?

The consultant would evaluate these and other issues and would respond with three answers corresponding to the needs of three geographical areas: the existing city, Seminole's planned future boundaries, and the fire district's coverage area.

When Dan Graves became the fire chief in 2000 he said the agency was running smoothly but lacked a plan. He said then that he and the fire department's division heads would take an in-depth look at the agency to identify goals.

Graves was out of town last week and could not be reached for comment. Edmunds said the fire department did conduct an "introspective review," but not to the extent a professional consultant who specializes in fire and EMS services would.

"We do not have the capabilities to do a study like the one I'm proposing," Edmunds told council members at a recent work session. "There is a lot of activity that I feel should be professionally analyzed."

A draft copy of the bid invitation includes the following tasks:

-- Evaluate current and future facility needs for fire protection and EMS.

-- Evaluate and make recommendations on equipment, apparatus and vehicles for fire and EMS service.

-- Review fire and EMS apparatus staffing and make recommendations for improvement and more effective use of existing staffing.

-- Assess fire and EMS problem(s) and compare to national problems and solutions.

-- Assess fire and EMS response times and make recommendations that could lead to reduced response times.

In 1995, the city absorbed Seminole Fire Rescue, which was founded as a volunteer agency in 1960. When the city took over the organization, it was one of the most expensive fire departments for its size in Pinellas County. Edmunds said the fire department has made a successful transition from an independent, private organization to a government agency.

The city has more firefighters on its payroll than any other type of employee, and the fire department's $7.5-million budget is more than half of Seminole's $12.7-million budget.

That's because the department serves unincorporated communities far outside the city's limits. Although Seminole is only about 5 square miles, it has four fire stations that serve 25 square miles.