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The Telegram
  • Six fire departments to take part in consolidation study

  • A consulting firm will study six Herkimer County fire departments to determine whether services or agencies could consolidate to reduce duplicated services and to relieve taxpayer burden.

    Herkimer County Emergency Services Director Robert Vandawalker said in a news release on Friday the six agencies participating requested to do the study two years ago through the county Fire Advisory Board.

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  • A consulting firm will study six Herkimer County fire departments to determine whether services or agencies could consolidate to reduce duplicated services and to relieve taxpayer burden.
    Herkimer County Emergency Services Director Robert Vandawalker said in a news release on Friday the six agencies participating requested to do the study two years ago through the county Fire Advisory Board.
    “Throughout the country, fire departments are struggling with manpower,” said Vandawalker during a telephone interview on Friday.
    He also said some municipalities with career departments are “facing budgetary concerns.”
    “They felt it was time to look at operations to take some of the burden off,” he said.
    Once funding for the study was secured, the advisory board and the county Office of Emergency Services requested proposals from public safety consulting firms. On Friday, Vandawalker announced the county legislature approved a proposal from Summit Lake Consulting, of Binghamton, to conduct the study. It is estimated it will take approximately 120 days to complete.
    The study is being paid for through grants that total $26,000 from the Department of Homeland Security.
    The fire agencies involved in the study are the volunteer Frankfort Fire Department, the Ilion Fire Department, the volunteer Mohawk Fire Department, the Herkimer Fire Department, the volunteer East Herkimer Fire Department and the Little Falls City Fire Department.
    In the news release, Vandawalker said the fire chiefs at the named agencies have identified several areas that merging service may be beneficial to the operations of their departments while helping to reduce the burden on taxpayers. The study will focus on possible methods of improving efficiencies in areas such as operations, training, equipment and purchasing.
    Additionally, the study will look at the possible reduction in the duplication of services and the opening of new avenues of funding and available grant opportunities.
    Vandawalker said the study will review whether something smaller — like sharing services — would be beneficial or if something bigger — like merging — should be considered.
    “They’re looking at options of working together,” he said.
    “The biggest thing to come out of this study, eventually, is to relieve the burden on taxpayers, not only through purchasing, but through operations itself,” said Little Falls Fire Chief Rob Parese during a telephone interview on Friday.
    Parese said “I believe that it is good for us to take a look at how we can not duplicate, not so much services, but the overall purchasing of equipment.”
    Parese said this could help eliminate some of the “guess work” that is involved sometimes when agencies respond to a call. “We want to make sure we have the right equipment in the right places in the valley,” he said. “... So it is a more efficient service to the valley residents.”
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