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Council, commissioners get merger overview

Talks began in earnest Monday as the Bremerton City Council and Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue Commissioners (CKFR) met with consultants to review the process for possibly combining the two fire departments.

Representatives from the Wilsonville, Ore.-based Emergency Services Consulting Inc., (ESCi) presented an overview of what would eventually become a draft report for the group to consider. Throughout the four to six month process, the groups will have access to all the data through ESCI’s Web site and be able to track the firm’s progress.

The draft report is expected to offer commissioners and the council a spectrum of consolidation options – from a full merger, to contract agreements, interlocal agreements or keeping the status quo, said Jack Snook, ESCi’s president.

The work is expected to begin next month as ESCi representatives begin interviews with stakeholders.

“Stakeholders are people who are going to be imperative to the success of the project,” said Bruce Caldwell, project manager for this merger.

These include government officials, union representatives, fire department personnel and citizens.

ESCi will identify critical issues, perform a fiscal analysis, and define action steps for each option. All of these will be included in a final draft report which will be presented to the group.

This is not the first time a possible merger has been brought to the table. CKFR commissioners and city council members began a discussion in 2001. The group, including current commissioners Ralph Rogers and John Wilkins Sr. and councilman Cecil McConnell, met for two years to work out a plan.

The information, which is still pertinent, will be reviewed by ESCi. Central Kitsap Fire Commissioner Bob Muhleman had questions about the timeline and how often the consultants would be in the area and how personal interviews would be conducted.

McConnell asked if coverage and placement of the fire stations and crews would be factored in the report.

The company, which has been working with emergency services providers nationwide since 1976, typically looks at 17 functions in a fire department including facilities and emergency management procedures.

Councilwoman Dianne Robinson questioned how a merger would effect staffing levels.

Based on other mergers administration typically is reduced while shift and support staff levels stay the same or increase, the consultants said.

“We will be looking for redundancy,” Caldwell said. They look at increasing efficiency and giving people more specialized jobs.

“We don’t write people out of work,” he said.

As far as taking input from the general public, ESCi agreed to look at providing a link to the city’s Web site where people can send their comments.

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