1. #1
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    Smile What type of Political System is Best for FDs

    Several comments on other threads, regarding Fire vs Politicians got me to think about which system works best for the Fire/Rescue organizations across America. Needless to say, I like what we have here in Maryland, so I'll explain it:

    With very few exceptions, the Government level that deals with Emergency Services of all types is the County. Reasons for this are, most areas are unincorporated, so there is no other local Government; The financial burden of a Fire/Rescue/EMS/Police/School/Public Works Operation is high enough that economies of scale are not possible until you reach a County level. Here's how we do it:

    Every square foot of land, every person, every building, gets the closest available help in an emergency. Always. NO political boundary interferes with this, even State Lines.
    Every county has a area-wide dispatching center that handles every call for every Fire/Rescue station in that County.
    911 is, by law, the emergency number for the entire state.
    Each County has a radio system that is used by all Fire/Rescue apparatus operating in that County.
    Apparatus and buildings are owned by the Individual Volunteer Fire Department or by County Government.
    The same training is available to everyone, statewide, and it's FREE
    EMS Services are FD Based, For-Profit providers do not handle emergencies, only inter-facility moves and Routine Transports.

    That's some of the way we do things, I'd have to write a book to cover it all, but we like what we have. Perfect? No, but better than a lot of places that I can think of, Niles Ohio and Camillus NY for example. Stay Safe....
    Last edited by hwoods; 03-09-2004 at 04:03 PM.
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  2. #2
    55 Years & Still Rolling
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    Red face Ooops......................

    Since everyone's reading, but no posts, I guess I forgot to ask for ideas, examples, etc. from other parts of the Country. What works for you and why?? Thanks, Stay Safe....
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
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    Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006

    IACOJ Budget Analyst

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    Chief Woods

    A county wide "Fire District" with elected board. Try to get as much poli-stinks as possible out of the picture. Also, people get exactly what they are willing to pay for.

  4. #4
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    Default County wide might not be flexible enough

    County wide fire board is the answer in a lot of areas, especially if you have a "homogenous" county. County wide also gives the departments more purchasing clout. More for your buck is always a good thing.

    Where county wide falls flat is where you have a "diverse" county.

    We go from the northern end of the county, which is more agricultural, to the center of the county/county seat which has the lions share of the countys industry & business, etc, to the our southern end of the county, with has agriculture, industry, and recreation ie camping, canoeing, lake, several state parks, state forest. Our terrain is much different. The two southern departments, (ours and the neighboring) operate a little differently, we have our own EMS Medical Director, and we get into things the other departments don't get into, and vice versa. In our case, local oversight works best.

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    pfd

    The metropolitian counties here in Maryland also have rural areas, so the system can work in an area like you discribe. Chief Woods, I'm thinking Frederick County, some growing pains but it will work. The big thing in my book is to make it as politicaly nuetral as possible. I would opt for the system we have in Maryland but with county wide fire district.

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    Harve:
    Sounds like you are pretty happy with the system in Maryland. It almost sounds too good to be true. I think acrimony has always been inherent to system here in Illinois.
    In Illinois, there seems to be several options available. You have municipal fire departments that are supported by the city taxpayers and is governed by a fire commission.
    You have rural departments that could operate out of the same municipal building, but is manned by volunteers.
    You have fire protection districts that were formed as a result of the Illinois Fire Protection Act. You have a board of trustees that is either appointed by the county board or are elected. The fire protection district boundaries were determined at the time of the enactment of the Act.
    The county is involved to some extent. MABAS is getting to be a bigger part of what we are doing at the local level.
    The problem many departments have is that some distict trustees grant a lot of leeway to fire departments. They may let the fire department establish by-laws that include discipline, chain of command and membership requirements. In some cases, the fire department starts acting almost independent of the trustees. This becomes a problem. Especially with appointed trustees where there might be the appearance of cronyism. When problems arise between the fire department and the appointed trustees, the arbitrator is the county board; the same board who made the appointments, so we pretty much know how things will turn out. So the problems remain.
    In my mind, the mission of the fire department is very clear. Everyone including trustees should be on board with that mission and if you aren't, then steps should be there to correct it. Getting appointed trustees removed is next to impossible. That's why I am a strong proponent of elected trustees. If they don't perform, you can vote them out. I also believe that trustees should abdicate their authority to the fire department in matters that involve policy.
    There should be clear communication between both parties; that way, everyone knows what needs to be done.
    I would like to learn more about county-wide organizations. I think it could work here with the right people on board.
    I am always looking for a better way.
    I am an elected trustee. I take it seriously.
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    How much is your book going to set me back??
    we have the town to answer to. They get money from
    the county. Our reports are forwarded to state level.
    Way too political. The town buys what they want we have
    imput but they have final say. Did I ask how much the book
    is???? seems like you have a great system how long
    has it been that way??

  8. #8
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    Oldman - what we have is working fairly well

    Problem with county wide is someone always ends up sucking hind tit, squeaky wheel gets the grease, yada, yada, yada.

    If you were starting from scratch, then countywide might work. But we have departments that have been around since the indians left.

    with the way things are in my area, I couln't build a case for a county wide fire district.

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    The county wide system has always interested me. Probably because I know I will never see it here. The counties around me have populations upwards of 500,000 and too many departments with too many chiefs with too many egos to ever let it happen.
    "We shouldn't be opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them in New York City."

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    This is a hot topic in my area right now. The mayor of the county seat is pushing for a city/county "unigov" system similar to Indy or Lexington, KY. Most all services would be consolidated in his plan including fire, police, etc. Needless to say, most of the elected officials in the suburbs are rather cool on the idea. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. (As a side note, I'm personally not for it because it would most likely mean the end of my department. We only run about 300 calls a year and one of the city's stations is less than 3 miles away. It's most likely that our response area would be added to this station's and we would be closed.)

    We do currently have a county-wide EMS system. The county provides the rigs and supplies, the fire departments provide the paramedics (whose salaries are also subsidized by the county I believe) and quarters. County dispatchers dispatch these rigs as well as patching all radio traffic to the 8 hospitals in the county. Occasionaly, it seems that some of the fire chiefs in the smaller departments act like these "Life Squads" are their own and should not leave their jurisdiction but for the most part the system works very, very well.
    FTM-PTB-DTRT

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    I don't think it would work in my county, either. I, personally, like the way it is here, for the most part. Each municipality has a Fire Department, and most of the Townships and Villages do also. Some of the Villages.Townships have a single FD between them.

    Our county is pretty segregated. There are 5 FDs in the Northern part of the county that sometimes are looked at like outsiders because we are the larger cities/townships, and very rarely make it to the southern part of the county, unless our Chief goes to a meeting down there or we go down to work at the County Fair. We are actually the busiest FDs in the county (with the exception of 1 FD in the County seat) and are usually the ones that "tie up" the County Fire Band that is shared by all FDs in the County (except for a couple). It's kinda weird to see the differences between us.

    As for WTFD's county, well, that would be pretty weird to see it go to a county-wide deal. Then again, it may work really well to, if the FDs would be operated like them Kick-***** people in EMS do it .

    Seriously, though, the EMS does run pretty good for the most part. It would be very interesting to see what they would do about the FDs. Actually, Moe, this was the first I've heard about this.....

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    We operate in 3 different counties. Six townships in one and four in another and one in the third. We were formed by what was left after everyone else had formed. Four stations spread out over 350 square miles. We have to deal with 3 different counties, law enforcement, dispatching etc. Two of the counties run UHF 450mhz and the headquarters county runs VHF 150mhz, Communication is a problem. We have a local fire board that is appointed by the headquarters county. I think we need to have more training for the board members. I think that some sort of state standards or requirements/responsibilities need to be met by board members. Term limits I think are a must for the board. 30 years is too long to be on anything.

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    I must admit that I have seen the county thing work well in other places, but I dont see it happening here for 2 big reasons, one being demographics, urban/suburban to the north and the farther south it becomes very rural. Two, right wrong or indifferent, most of of us northerners have well established FD's running a pretty full range of services, the sad part is due to #1 they are not filtered down county wide. It would be nice to have that, but to many years and established practice does not make it possible.

    Oh ya so who or what governs us, City Charter, and our monies for operation come from a general fund. We do have a separate "capital improvements" fund that the City cannot say to much about what we spend it on,as long as it is in the account. We have not faced too many cuts until this year, as the outgoing Mayor and Administrator left us a little mess that will probably hamper any expansion for us for a few years at best. Grants have helped us and so has billing for transport as now we can at least say we are contributing to the budget bottom line. So far in the almsot 17 years I have been around it has been ok, as long as Chiefs are allowed to be Chiefs and leave the politicin' in Council Chambers.
    Last edited by Weruj1; 03-10-2004 at 09:50 PM.
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    Originally posted by firenresq77
    Actually, Moe, this was the first I've heard about this.....
    Skepticism greets ĎUnigoví summit

    By TOM TROY
    BLADE STAFF WRITER


    The issues of trust and fear surfaced early in a two-hour summit held yesterday in Toledo to explore area interest in a regional government.

    Almost all of the 23 political jurisdictions in Lucas County were represented at the meeting, which was requested by Toledo Mayor Jack Ford. And while the mood was polite, the response to Toledoís invitation was wary.

    "Our cities have long memories," said Maumee Mayor Tim Wagener. He pointed out that Maumee writes a $277,000 check to the city of Toledo every year "for nothing in return" because of a lawsuit over property Toledo owns in Maumee.

    The meeting produced no consensus, but it did create a countywide discussion on the topic for the first time - and an agreement to meet again in 30 days.

    "We are a regional economy and there are not just millions, but billions of dollars represented by the people lined up here today," Mr. Ford said. "This is just the beginning. I donít know where itís going to take us, but Iím just pleased with the turnout."

    Mr. Ford announced the initiative to save money and improve the regionís economic competitiveness during his State of the City speech last month. He has not endorsed any model of merged government, which he has referred to both as metropolitan government and "unigov."

    If the other local governments agree to form a metropolitan government, Mr. Ford said, Toledo could offer a regional water system, joint bonding authority, and adoption of an urban county designation so the county could share in the $10 million federal block grant now awarded only to the city.

    Held in the Central Union Terminal on the neutral turf of the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments, the meeting drew about 60 people, including elected officials, private individuals, agency representatives, and state Reps. Peter Ujvagi (D., Toledo) and Lynn Olman (R., Maumee).

    The two-hour session was facilitated by James Lindeen, a University of Toledo political science professor. The program included a short primer on regional government, and a discussion of examples of how the areaís communities already cooperate. Those included the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department, the Toledo Area Metroparks District, and the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.

    During the meeting, some officials expressed pride in their autonomy, as well as resentment over past scrapes with Toledo.

    "Itís too early for agreement. We are stark, white-faced frightened," said John Warkentin, chairman of the Swanton Township trustees. "The whole thing weíre here to discuss all wraps around money."

    "This is a good jumping-off point," he said, "but I certainly am not ready for a referendum."

    Washington Township Trustee Camille Hammer boasted of quick response times by her communityís police and fire departments and of the good condition of roads there.

    "I do believe we provide services to our constituents that they want, or they would not keep approving our levies," Ms. Hammer said. She said Washington Township would not agree to participate in a steering committee until township officials have a chance to talk about it.

    Andy Glenn, a Springfield Township trustee, said he just wants to make sure his community is not taken by surprise. "Iíd be extremely opposed to any outcome that would put control under one body," he said.

    Others expressed doubts about what would be gained by merging.

    Oregon City Councilman Mike Sheehy questioned whether places where metropolitan governments have been created - including Indianapolis, Louisville, and Jacksonville, Fla. - have better services and lower taxes than nonmerged communities.

    "That would be the threshold question before this issue can survive," Mr. Sheehy said.

    There was some long-harbored resentment expressed over Toledoís decision in the 1970s to abolish income tax reciprocity with suburban neighbors. Starting in 1973, the city phased out refunding to other Lucas County cities a share of income taxes collected on people who worked in Toledo but who lived in those other cities. Toledo officials at the time said they stopped the practice because the city was losing about $500,000 a year through refunding.

    Harry Barlos, the president of the Lucas County Board of Commissioners and a former Maumee mayor, has said that the ending of tax reciprocity contributed to the creation of Arrowhead Park, a business park which has created serious competition with Toledo by offering substantial tax breaks to businesses that locate there.

    Oregon Mayor Marge Brown recalled that Oregon was converted from a township to a city in the 1950s "because Toledo wanted [to annex] us. They wanted our refineries. We have a history of not trusting Toledo."

    Ms. Brown emphasized that "Mayor Ford and I do have a good working relationship. But we have to remember our history and why we became Oregon."

    Despite tension between Toledo and Maumee over a long-running lawsuit that ended in 2002 with Maumee agreeing to share a portion of the income tax that is generated from Toledo-owned land in Maumee, Mr. Wagener also spoke of a trusting relationship with Mr. Ford.

    Sylvania Mayor Craig Stough, citing the issue of trust, said the term "unigov" should be dropped when discussing mutual municipal cooperation.

    "We need to see how we can expand the list of shared services" rather than abolish local governments, Mr. Stough said.

    Mr. Wagener and Monclova Township Trustee Keith Trettin cited the cooperation which resulted in the newly created joint economic development zone between their jurisdictions and Toledo.

    The zone resulted in development of a new Dana Corp. research center and hundreds of high-paying jobs.

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    Default If it were my choice...

    I would opt to consolidate many of the fire departments in my region. Note I do not say County. Cook County Illinois has a population of around 5.6 million people. Take away the 3 million in the City of Chicago, It would still have a greater population then quite a few States. The way the economics work are there are the "haves" AKA Northern Suburbs and the "have nots" AKA Southern Suburbs and the "tweeners" Western Suburbs. There is NO WAY a County department would work. The southern part of the county is in dire staits. It was an area that was built by a strong industrial base that is now virtually gone. The Division where I work is a prime example why consolidation should be considered. We cross city boundaries for fires. There used to be a pretty strong volunteer/poc component that no longer exists. There is a serious duplication of services and especially apparatus. We would have to form an independent fire protection district and see who would get on board. My feeling is we could provide better service if this could be accomplished. I dont think it ever will happen. There has been talk of combining some of our Locals together to have a more defined/unified message. That may happen someday. The Union, at least at the State level supports and even encourages this concept. But under NO circumstances would I want the Cook County Board running ANY Fire Department.
    IAFF-IACOJ PROUD

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    I've always been a believer that some basic services should be provided at the city level -- the services provided by a fire department are included in those. However, I think that teamwork among neighboring municipalities is the only way to deliver those services.

    If two small communities sit side-by-side, they both don't need ladder companies, heavy rescues, light/air trucks, dive boats, etc. Many resources can be shared -- especially high-dollar specialty units -- between cities.

    Also, regional fire dispatch should come with cooperation between cities and other gov't entities. It's silly to dispatch equipment and manpower according to lines on a map... We should be dispatching according to the closest equipment & manpower possible.

  17. #17
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    Aghhh --

    Welcome to NJ -- the land of home rule (AKA DUPLICATION OF EFFORT )

    Bergen County is in Northern NJ - and is bordered to the North by Orange and Rockland Counties in NY - to the East by the Hudson River. The south by Hudson County, and to the west by Passaic County.

    Bergen County has 56 volunteer FD's, and 4 paid FD's.

    There are more fire apparatus in Bergen county than in the entire FDNY.

    Within 2.5 miles (as the crow flies, not road miles) of my firehouse - in most any given direction - you will be in another municipality - and very close to that town's FD.

    Almost every single town in the County has it's own Police Department (paid), Department of Public Works, Water Dept, and Fire Department.

    Most towns are governed by Town Councils - and they administer the taxes collected from the homeowners in the town. Most fire apparatus are put out on bond via the town. Some departments own the buildings they are in - but not the vehicles. This is usually the case - as vehicles have a higher turnover period.

    EMS is usually a separate entity - a separate Ambulance Corps. A few towns have combined their EMS and Fire together.

    For the most part - their is alot of mutual aid between the FD's. There are many regional Mutual Aid Associations - we are members of the Northwest Bergen Mutual Aid Association.


    For what it's worth - I like how things are run Fire/EMS wise down in Maryland and Virginia....

    EMS wise - NJ is in the stone ages - Many other states are more progressive.
    Marc

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    -- The opinions presented here are my own; and are not those of any organization that I belong to, or work for.

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