Dallas, Southwest Polk work toward dissolving contract

By Jolene Guzman

Itemizer-Observer

DALLAS — On July 1, a contract between the city of Dallas and Southwest Polk Rural Fire District that has been in place for nearly 50 years will come to an end.

The two agencies compiled a separation to-do list that has more than 70 items that must be completed before the contract ends.

“Their address has been 915 SE Shelton for the last 47 years, and July 1 it won’t be that. Just like anybody else that moves, you have all these pieces you have to tie up when you change addresses,” said Dallas Fire & EMS Chief Todd Brumfield. “We spent a lot of time on that list. That was probably a two-hour meeting, with all of our staff thinking about all the ways that we partner with Southwest.”

The contract paid Dallas to provide administrative services to Southwest and emergency response from the Dallas station. The administrative portion will shift to Sheridan as Southwest, Sheridan, and West Valley fire districts work toward consolidation. Southwest will remove its equipment from the Dallas station and will have full responsibility for responses, unless a temporary agreement is worked out as Southwest transitions to taking over all calls. 

For Dallas, the loss of the contract means that two administrative positions in Dallas Fire & EMS will remain unfilled.

About $250,000 of the contract paid all or part of the salaries of administrative staff.

“It was split between four people here — the fire chief, the operations chief and community services officer to varying degrees. It paid for all of the administrative assistant (position),” Brumfield said. 

He said one of the cut positions, management analyst, had been vacant since November. The other was his old job before being named acting chief, and then permanent chief — the deputy chief of fire & EMS operations.

Brumfield said he’s divided the operations chief duties among supervisory staff in the fire and EMS divisions.

“That’s what I’ve been working on the last couple months — how to disperse the workload amongst the people we do have right now,” Brumfield said. “We have two fire captains … those fire captains together with their personnel and our EMS lieutenant, I’m dispersing the operational pieces to them. Just as the city goes, our staffing is adequate for our call load today.”

Southwest also paid $13,000 to Dallas finance department to manage finances and $27,000 to the city’s fleet services department to maintain vehicles. The fleet part of the contract will remain in place.

The agencies have until June 14 to determine whether Dallas will still house Southwest’s trucks and respond to calls through a contract.

If not, the agencies will revert to a mutual aid relationship, meaning they will respond to each other’s calls when asked.

“The mutual aid agreements basically say, when we need help, we want you to come help us, and when you need help, we are going to come help you,” Brumfield said. “We aren’t going to talk about money. We are not going to talk about charges. You help us; we help you.”

Southwest incoming Chief Fred Hertel said Southwest, Sheridan and West Valley will continue to engage Dallas in exploring ways they can cooperate operationally, or even talk consolidation in the future.

“We still have the four-way coalition going with the city of Dallas, so we are hopeful at some point that the city of Dallas will come along with that,” Hertel said. “That’s a decision that they’ve got to make.”

On Monday night, the Dallas City Council declined to conduct a feasibility study reviewing the benefits of joining the three agencies. In a recent meeting, Brumfield recommended the city allow the three agencies to continue with consolidation and, if it’s successful, consider joining later.

“We will keep moving forward,” Hertel said. “Our relationship with Dallas is good, and we will continue to be partners into the future.”

Meanwhile, the three agencies have signed an inter-governmental agreement to pool resources starting on July 1. Hertel will oversee all three agencies, and is in the process of hiring administrative staff to serve all three.

He said the arrangement will allow for more paid firefighters, including four based out of Southwest’s Rickreall station and Salt Creek station once it is built. Those will be the district’s first career firefighters.

“They were able to take the same money they were paying Dallas for administrative services and were able to fund staffing in their station,” Hertel said. “That’s the benefit and the beauty of coming together regionally, because you get to capitalize on all of those benefits.”

Those firefighters will cover 12-hour shifts, seven days per week.

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