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Joint district should bring efficiencies

The point of regionalizing services among neighboring communities is to create efficiencies.

That’s largely the reason we would support the possibility of creating a joint fire district that could fight fires and provide emergency medical services in a collaborative effort covering Girard, Liberty Township and Weathersfield Township.

Adding any new taxes to support the effort would defeat the purpose.

Girard fire Chief Ken Bornemiss was correct when he told Girard city officials this week that he and the fire chiefs in Liberty and Weathersfield townships, who have met to discuss the idea, would be interested in continuing discussions about the possibility of a joint fire district to serve the area, but they doubt taxpayers would be interested in any additional taxes to fund a district.

Isn’t that a no brainer? Given that these three communities already are providing emergency services to residents individually in each of these communities, a joint effort should provide opportunities for coordinated services, possibly shared specialized equipment, staffing overlap and, at the end of the day, better efficiency. It stands to reason the collaboration should come with some cost savings — not increased expenses to fund additional employees, build new stations or buy more equipment.

So far, Bornemiss says when he spoke last month to Liberty fire Chief Gus Birch and Weathersfield fire Chief Tom Lambert about the idea of a joint district, the group raised questions about things like a joint fire district’s budget, the number of firefighters that would be needed to make it work and how many fire stations would be needed to serve the entire area.

Bornemiss told council members that the combined existing fire budgets from the three communities totals about $4.05 million. The three communities employ 30 full-time firefighters and several part-timers. And each community already has established fire stations.

The focus, Bornemiss said, is to improve services.

Indeed, that should always be the focus, but we believe with a larger pool of workers, trucks and equipment, the possibility exists for both improved service and more efficiency.

For now, Girard city officials say they will reach out to their counterparts in Liberty and Weathersfield townships to discuss the possibility of splitting the cost of a feasibility study on forming a joint fire district.

We urge completion of such a study — but only if all three communities are very serious about the possibility of creating a joint fire district and only if they are laser focused on finding ways to provide new efficiencies and cost savings for the taxpayers — not the opposite.

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