There are a lot of reasons elected officials might shy away from a conversation on consolidating two separate fire departments. Studying the complex issue can be expensive and time-consuming, and department pride does not always pair well with the controversial idea of consolidation. The whole idea can be downright messy.
But in Jordan-Elbridge, local officials are having that conversation anyway.
In July, a committee of elected officials and representatives from both the Jordan and Elbridge volunteer fire departments was formed to identify problems with the fire service and discuss the possibility of consolidating fire service within the town of Elbridge, said Elbridge Councilor George Betts, who chairs the committee.
Betts said the primary focus of the committee is to determine how to better provide fire service to town residents, and was driven in part by legislative changes in Albany that would become effective March 2010 and greatly affect consolidation of fire districts. Elbridge Supervisor Ken Bush said push from some community members to gather information on how the departments work together was also a driving force.
Since July, the group has met five times, with the next meeting set for Dec. 9, and while they are not working on a strict deadline by which to form conclusions, Betts said the committee has covered considerable ground.
"We have identified operational issues that need to be addressed, response being the same issue that confounds many volunteer departments," Betts said. Among some of the chief concerns of the committee are the differing tax rates for residents in the two different fire protection districts, equipment purchasing and maintaining operable departments with volunteers.
Jordan Village Trustee Mary Seeley expressed to the village board last month that although there were many questions to be asked, and answered, by the committee, the group is taking a methodical approach with special attention to the identity of each community and department. Seeley represents Jordan on the committee and is also a longtime member of the Jordan Fire Department.