Consolidation idea is being considered

DALLAS -- Three Polk County fire protection agencies are considering hiring a consultant to study plans for possible consolidation of services.



DALLAS -- Three Polk County fire protection agencies are considering hiring a consultant to study plans for possible consolidation of services.

For more than a year, Dallas Fire Department, Falls City Fire Department and Southwest Polk Rural Fire Protection District have been discussing the feasibility of consolidating select operations or a complete merger.

Tighter budgets are leaving all entities searching for a way to reduce costs. Merging into one district could allow for more efficient management of resources.

Dallas Fire Chief Bill Hahn, who also is the administrator for Southwest Polk, said larger departments faced with budget constraints have been using "rolling black outs," meaning one fire station closes for a day, to save money. As Dallas and Falls City only have one station, such measures are not possible locally.

"In

communities our size, that's not a realistic way to save money," Hahn said. "We are having to look outside the box."

The committee is exploring three options. The first is to have Southwest Polk absorb Dallas and Falls City departments and charge the new district's citizens the same tax rate charged currently. Secondly, all three entities could be dissolved and a new district formed charging a different rate. Lastly, the entities may decide to leave things as they are.

However, Hahn said none of the entities have the staff time to evaluate each agency and service needs to determine if a merger would be more cost effective than current operations.

He said if the committee decided to hire a consultant, the cost would be about $30,000 to $40,000.

Hahn has applied for a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay for the consultant. He said the committee won't know if it receives the grant until at least June and perhaps as late as November. If it doesn't receive the money, each entity would be asked to pay $10,000.

The committee will discuss the idea at its next meeting to be scheduled later this month.

While not part of the consolidation plan currently, Polk County Fire District No. 1 has been part of the meetings and is watching the discussion closely.

Polk No. 1 Fire Chief Jason Cane said as the district faces its own funding shortfalls, the board may decide to actively join the discussions if it sees an advantage.

Hahn is scheduled to make a presentation to Polk No. 1's board of directors at its next meeting April 17, asking for its support in hiring the consultant.



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