Traverse City officials along with leaders from the Metro Authority Board met this morning to hear more about the potential for combining Traverse City and Grand Traverse Metro Fire Departments.
The presentation included the results of a study that revealed that a consolidation is a possibility, but it will take some time to put together.
??Yes it??s feasible to do so, but now is not the time,?? said Lane Wintermute, Project Manager for Emergency Services Consulting International. ??There??s a lot of work that needs to be done first.??
The Oregon based consultant team spent the last several months gathering data from both departments that ultimately revealed that there would not be a large cost savings with a merger because it would require nearly the same number of employees in order to be effective in the community.
??Fundamentally this is not a financial question,?? said Wintermute. ??Not a matter of, ??we??re going to save a lot of money.?? It??s a matter of are we going to be able to do things more effectively with the money that we have to work with???
With that, ESCI representatives are recommending that the two departments start out slow and find ways to work together, but as separate departments.
??I think like the consultant said, you have to date a little bit before you get married,?? said Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department Chief, Pat Parker.
??There are two separate training programs that can be combined into a single program which everybody gets trained under the same standards and the same rules,?? said Wintermute. ??So that when they??re all on the fire scene together they already know each other for one thing, and they interact with each other. They are trained the same way.??
The study suggested that the departments also combine their fire prevention code enforcement, public education activities, and their HazMat teams. Something that Chief Parker says in the long run could end up saving some money.
??The merger I think is something that would be years off but the functional and operational services absolutely,?? said Chief Parker.
??The report had a lot of good recommendations in there,?? said Traverse City manager, Jered Ottenwess. ??Things that I think the city and Metro Authority should be working on regardless of whether or not the report came out.??
Chief Parker isn't sure what the time frame will be on meeting with the city to determine ways the two departments can work together.
ESCI representatives told the departments, townships, and city leaders how important it was that they keep the community involved in any future decisions.
The study was initiated by the Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department, costing around $45 thousand. 25 percent will be covered by state grant money, and the remaining amount is being paid for through Metro Fire Department's reserve fund.