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Ormond Beach Observer Tuesday, Sep. 10, 2019 9 months ago

Volusia elected officials to discuss fire consolidation in respective councils

Should fire services in Volusia be consolidated into one?
by: Jarleene Almenas Associate Editor

A 2010 study on fire consolidation recommended Volusia merge all its fire departments. The county didn't, and now elected officials are taking another look.

Volusia County elected officials were given an overview of how fire service is currently operating in the county, as well as a review of what recommendations from the study commissioned by the Civic League of the Halifax Area have been implemented, and which haven't. 

"We didn't merge," said Volusia County Fire Chiefs’ Association President and Holly Hill Fire Chief Jim Bland. "We didn't consolidate, and here we are today."

Some recommendations, like standardizing response patterns, sharing the same radio frequencies and merging all 911 dispatch centers under the Volusia County Sheriff's Office, have been put in place. Bland said he would consider Volusia fire services to already be "functionally" consolidated, as training programs, apparatus maintenance and other special functions are equal across all departments.

There are benefits to having independent agencies, Bland said, such as less mistakes made when dispatching to an emergency location. When you operate as a larger agency, a unit could be sent to a similar address on the other side of the county, he illustrated, calling consolidation a trade-off.

“If you’re looking at dollars and cents, maybe bigger is the way to go," Bland said. "If you’re looking at providing a service to your citizens where you know you can call right now and get this done, that might not be the case.”

Deltona City Manager Jane Shang questioned the age of the study, and suggested an update be done.

“It’s nine years later," Shang said. "A lot has happened — a lot of changes.”

South Daytona Mayor Bill Hall said the 2010 initiative is worth looking into, but expressed doubts on consolidation, saying that unless they got rid of all fire chiefs, he wasn't "seeing a whole lot of savings right now."

The elected officials decided to discuss the possibility of fire consolidation in their respective councils and commissions, and report back at the next meeting with an update.

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