Frequently asked questions — and answers — about the proposed regionalization of fire and emergency medical services within the areas of Polk and Yamhill Counties currently represented by Sheridan Fire District, SW Polk Fire District and West Valley Fire District.
The three agencies have entered into a pilot regionalization of their fire and emergency medical services. An Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) between the three agencies started on July 1, 2019; the service agreement includes regionalized administrative and operational functions. The following questions and answers provide details about the proposed regionalization • What is changing? • When will the change go into effect? • Why are the three fire agencies considering regionalization? • Are these the first fire and emergency medical services to consider regionalization? • Whose idea was it to consolidate? • Will this regionalization of fire and emergency medical services affect my annual tax payment? • Will operating costs for the consolidated fire and emergency medical services be shared? • Who will be in charge of the consolidated department? • What impact will the regionalization have on fire and emergency medical services to the area citizens? • Will fire and emergency medical staff physically relocate? • Will current fire and emergency medical service programs continue? • Will there be any changes to police services?
What is changing?
The three agencies have entered into a pilot regionalization of their fire and emergency medical service delivery systems. Phase I of the regionalization involves only administrative and operational functions. All current career and volunteer members will remain connected to their current district, and all current bargaining agreements will remain in place. Phase I of the regionalization includes cost sharing for the administration team. Restructuring administrative functions by reducing redundancy and exploring opportunities to leverage resources through joint purchasing power. The three fire agencies also will establish a single operational structure and implement standardized training, policies and procedures.
Phase II brings the benefits from regionalization that occurred in phase I to allow for increased response personnel and thus provider quicker, faster, safer services to our citizens.
When will the change go into effect?
This new IGA was discussed at multiple Fire District Board meetings. The approved IGA was initiated on July 1, 2019. The Board of Directors from each agency continue joint discussions about future regionalization project for creating the most efficient and effect fire and emergency medical delivery systems.
Why are the three fire agencies considering regionalization?
All three agencies have operated their own fire and emergency medical service system since their inception. Each agency has their own history of previous regionalization to enhance their service delivery system. There is a high level of cooperation between the three agencies, yet they maintain separate organizational infrastructures. As is the case in many areas, budgetary pressures are creating difficulties in maintaining appropriate levels of service. The goal of the proposed regionalization is to provide the best fire and emergency medical services possible to the areas and communities given available resources. The plan will eliminate redundancy and duplication of effort, provide opportunities for cost savings, and enhance the level of service for all three agencies. At the same time, the proposed regionalization will generate savings over individually meeting the same service levels.
Are these the first fire and emergency medical agencies to consider regionalization?
No. Regionalizing fire and emergency medical services is a nationwide trend to maintain fire and emergency medical response in the face of budgetary challenges. There are several nearby completed examples: Lane Fire Authority, Redmond Fire District and Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue. Several other nearby areas are considering similar processes: McMinnville, Amity, Forest Grove, Cornelius and Albany.
Whose idea was it to Regionalize?
Several studies have been undertaken over previous years to identify areas where the agencies involved could increase cooperation. Those studies have indicated that the possibilities were limited by the existence of separate distinct management structures. In 2017, two fire chiefs announced their intentions to retire. This presented a unique opportunity to consider a new management model for fire and emergency medical services across the three service areas. Before initiating the recruitment of new fire chiefs, the agencies came together to determine if full regionalization will benefit all areas and communities involved.
Will this regionalization of fire and emergency medical services affect my annual tax payment? Not at this time. If the Board of Directors determine this pilot project to be successful; then there could be a requested increase to the annual property tax. Any increase request will be less than if the fire and emergency medical system(s) were enhanced as individual agency systems. The amount of any increase will vary upon which service area you are located within.
Will there be other benefits associated with regionalization?
Infrastructure improvements associated with the regionalization will improve service to all communities. For example, all agencies could begin using a common information technology service including the need for meeting Oregon Records Retention laws. Emergency planning could also be improved through common practices and stronger communication.
Will operating costs for the consolidated fire & emergency medical agencies be shared?
Under the Phase 1 administrative and operational services agreement, joint funding the administrative functions will be split equitably between the three agencies.
Who will be in charge of the consolidated agencies?
Beginning in Phase I, a shared Fire Chief will be the Chief Executive Officer for all three agencies. In addition to the Fire Chief, all agencies will also share several senior command staff personnel, including, one Deputy Chief of Operations, one Division Chief of Training, one Finance Officer, One Administrative Assistant and three shift Battalion Chiefs.
What impact will the regionalization have on fire and emergency medical services to the areas involved?
The regionalization effort is designed to increase fire & emergency medical services within all areas involved. Eliminating the current vacant administrative positions within each agency thus allowing for those dollars to increase the number of fire and emergency medical service providers.
Will the fire & emergency medical service levels differ from what my family currently receives?
Yes, the main focus of regionalized fire & emergency medical services is to increase the service level to the citizens for all agencies involved.
Will the fire and emergency medical vehicles that I have paid taxes to purchase stay at their current location?
Yes, however, as it currently occurs, sometimes vehicles are temporarily repositioned for the purpose of providing the best service to all citizens.
Will current fire and emergency medical staff physically relocate?
The same or increased numbers of fire and emergency medical line personnel will remain in their current locations. Fire and emergency medical line personnel will continue to provide service though they may be reorganized for the purpose of providing increased service throughout all areas involved. Shared personnel most likely will be relocated to the most appropriate facility for their position. Many will further maintain a base office but will require some travel throughout the areas to fulfill their duties.
Will the current programs and community projects continue?
Yes, current programs will be enhanced and possible expanded across all three areas, ie…. the SW Polk Fire Districts - Public Access to AED Program will expand to include Sheridan and West Valley Fire Districts. Other current community projects and assistance will be continued in all three areas.
Will there be any changes to police services?
Police services are not part of the proposed regionalization, and no regionalization of law enforcement services is planned at this time. Police and crime prevention services will continue to be managed by the appropriate police agency as separate, but mutually cooperative, agencies.