Small cities look at using county fire services

By AMY REININK

Sun staff writer
April 27. 2005 6:01AM

ARCHER - Officials from small municipalities in the western part of the county will discuss creating a western district of Alachua County Fire Rescue for fire service, officials said Tuesday.

Officials from Archer, Alachua and Newberry said Tuesday at a meeting of the Alachua County League of Cities that they would discuss using county fire services instead of local departments in an attempt to provide consistent fire services for less money.

Archer Mayor Samuel Clark initiated the discussion, saying Archer volunteer fire services are dwindling and are not economically viable.

"Within the last year or two, we've realized we're no longer able to provide the volunteer fire services we've provided for years," Clark said.

Newberry Mayor John Glanzer said Newberry, which has its own fire department, needed to learn more about the financial impact of a western fire district. He also said the city would need to consider whether it could part with the local pride that comes with having a functional local fire department.

"Newberry City Commission is still interested in discussing our options," Glanzer said. "First, we need to figure out how it would affect all three communities, and what the net cost to our citizens would be. We need to be able to go back to our citizens and say, 'You're paying X number of dollars now - if we do this, we will protect the integrity of our service and we will save money.'"

The comments came during a meeting at the Archer campus of Santa Fe Community College Tuesday night after a presentation from Alachua County Fire Chief Will May about a fire service plan developed for the county by a planning consultant.

May said based on the report, the county's small municipalities could opt to keep their fire services as they are, combine certain functions, like training or public education, or merge entirely with the county or with fire stations in neighboring communities.

A proposal to merge Alachua County fire services with Gainesville's is stalled for now, May said.

Alachua Mayor Jean Calderwood said she was disappointed to hear that the proposal to merge county services with services in Gainesville and other municipalities fell through
Calderwood also said she viewed the western fire district as another way to provide consistent service in the county's small municipalities.

"I think this is another option," she said.

"I was a little disappointed in the meeting where the potential merger was discussed that we didn't see a little more planning between the city, the county and the small municipalities occur," Calderwood said.

Archer Mayor Samuel Clark initiated the discussion, saying Archer volunteer fire services are dwindling and are not economically viable.

"Newberry City Commission is still interested in discussing our options