11/29/10 242 W - + 14 - 9 Consolidating County Fire Services in Florida

From a reader, here's an interesting Daytona Beach News-Journal article titled Unified Fire Service Faces Uphill Battle. The story is about interesting and intentions of creating consolidated fire department in Volusia County, FL. That's a coastal community toward the north. Population in 2000 was 443,343. Size of 1,432 square-miles, 1,103 of which is land. Has 16 incorporated cities and towns, including Daytona Beach. Looks like the county has a fire department with 20+ fire stations. The other 12 fire departments are probably all municipal.

As for consolidation, cites the article, county residents have been hearing for 25 years that they could (a.) save money and (b.) get better service if everyone was protected by a single fire department. And there's a new study making the same points, and this time quite a few people agree with the findings. Elected officials, civil leaders, business owners, and even fire chiefs.

What are the upsides? Rising pension costs is one issue talked about. And they've been rising due to "the unspoken competition among cities and fire unions." Consolidation would end the competition. It would also eliminate duplication in management and support positions, the article states. Estimated $5.7 million in annual savings on that alone. What are the downsides? The story talks about the impact on property taxes. Not everyone pays the same rate for fire protection. Equalizing would equalize, which means some people would pay more, and some would pay less. 

Interesting story. Read it.

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