Photo courtesy of Dallas Fire & EMS
Dallas agreed to participate in conversations about possibly building a regional fire district. The group will include officials from the city of Dallas, Southwest Polk Rural Fire Protection District, Sheridan Fire and West Valley Fire.
As of Monday, August 27, 2018
DALLAS — The Dallas City Council voted to participate in discussions about the possibility of a regional fire district, including Dallas, Southwest Polk, Sheridan Fire and West Valley Fire District.
West Valley and Sheridan have begun the process of consolidation, and Southwest Polk Rural Fire Protection District is in talks about joining them.
In July, Southwest Polk, which has had an administrative service contract with Dallas for decades, offered a one-year contract, with a six month out clause. Dallas didn’t accept that offer, but asked staff to continue negotiation.
Southwest’s board hasn’t addressed the contract negotiations, said Dallas Fire Chief Fred Hertel.
“We had a conversation with the board chair of Southwest to talk about the negotiation of the contract. That contract negotiation was put on hold,” Hertel said.
Hertel said Southwest faces financial issues it needs to consider.
“They need to start down a path to have a longterm solution in three to five years,” Hertel said. “That longterm solution that that board has chosen is a new fire district with a new tax rate. To get there in three to five years, they have to start now.”
Hertel, Councilor Micky Garus, and City Manager Greg Ellis met with Sheridan and West Valley to offer to have Dallas’ administrative team fill the joint chief position for the districts.
That offer was refused. Sheridan Board President Scott Breeden said the new chief would need to be in place by January 2019.
“We were excited by the opportunity that was proposed by the Dallas City Manager Greg Ellis,” Breeden said. “However, both boards decided we are too far in our process and have complex time constraints with our current chief to be able to accept the opportunity.”
Breeden proposed all four entities form a coalition with representatives from each agency “meet to develop communication, coordination pathways that led to an enhanced regionalized approach to fire and EMS services within all of our jurisdictions.”
He said Sheridan, West Valley and Southwest are available to begin meeting immediately.
“The goal of that group would be to research how we could regionalize and benefit each other in the future,” Hertel said. “In talks with (Southwest Board President) Rod (Watson) and Scott, they feel like we have to start with building that relationship, and you can’t build that relationship with nine council members and 15 board members. You have to start with something smaller than that.”
The coalition would be an advisory group and wouldn’t have authority to make financial or operation decisions without approval of each agency’s leadership.
The council voted unanimously to join the coalition, though Councilor Kelly Gabliks expressed concern about the nebulous nature of the group’s mission.
“It’s never going to hurt for people to talk,” Gabliks said. “I don’t have any problem with us having that coordinated team sit down and start talking.”