DALLAS — The Dallas City Council approved requesting proposals for a study about the feasibility and cost of forming an independent fire district including the city and three other fire agencies.
The vote in favor was split 5-4. The RFP doesn’t require that the city award a bid, but requests agencies submit proposals.
The study would “determine the feasibility of forming an independent fire district to include the city of Dallas Fire & EMS Department, Southwest Polk Rural Fire District, West Valley Fire District and Sheridan Fire District, as well as potential funding mechanisms for delivery of fire and emergency services.”
As stated in the request, the purpose is to determine if a new district is a viable alternative to the current structure and “if it will provide those services with increased effectiveness while realizing a fiscally efficient and cost-contained system.”
Councilors Kelly Gabliks and Bill Hahn asked the council to consider voting yes.
“That’s what we’ve been asking all along, and it will give us the data and make the recommendations if it is or it isn’t (viable),” Gabliks said.
She likened it having an independent inspection before buying a house.
“To me, this is just due diligence,” she said.
Councilor Larry Briggs said he’s concerned that the city would be repeating work done in the city 2016 fire master plan, that evaluated the city’s department and Southwest Polk.
“I would have a hard time justifying to our constituents spending another $30,000 or $40,000 for a feasibility study when it’s all right here, or most of it,” he said.
Hahn said he didn’t believe the data and the recommendations the city has are independent or complete, because they don’t include information from Sheridan and West Valley. He said the recommendations in the master plan were based on best practices, not an evaluation of performance given the resources and funding available.
“They are not concerned with the money that’s available to a jurisdiction,” he said. “… one of the things was the response time. They said response times should be this, which is great when you have an unlimited budget to meet all of these needs.”
Councilor Jennie Rummell said the coalition of representatives from each entity conducted a feasibility review and estimated the assets of each department. She pointed out those documents were available to the council.
“If you guys haven’t looked over that, you might,” she said. “We (Dallas) don’t have the most assets of everyone. West Valley does. We’re not ahead of everyone in assets. We don’t bring everything to the table. Under the feasibility review, it lists everything that each group has by bullet point. I encourage everyone to look at that.”
Rummell suggested the city put its money into conducting citizen panels to see what voters think of the idea of consolidation.
Councilor Rummell, Briggs, Michael Schilling, and Paul Trahan voted against the RFP, while Gabliks, Hahn, Jackie Lawson, Ken Woods, and Terry Crawford voted yes.
In other business, the council:
Will attend a second joint meeting with representatives of the fire consolidation committee coalition.
The previous meeting wasn’t properly noticed, so not all councilors could attend.
City Manager Greg Ellis said he would invite more guest speakers, including a councilor from Redmond, and the city manager and a couple councilors from Forest Grove, both places where fire districts are in the process of consolidation.
Gabliks said she would like to hear from a representative of an entity that studied, but didn’t approve, consolidation.
“I would like to hear both sides of why they did the feasibility and decided not to go for it,” she said. “I don’t just want to hear from people who are pushing it, I want to hear both sides.”
The meeting is scheduled for March 18 at 5:30 p.m. in the Dallas Civic Center, 945 SE Jefferson St., Dallas.