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CKFR, BFD looking favorably on merger with SKFR

While South Kitsap Fire & Rescue recently completed four meetings to carefully dissect a study evaluating a possible merger with Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue (CKFR) and the Bremerton Fire Department (BFD), discussions also are occurring locally.

“Everybody is still in a fact-finding situation,” said BFD Battalion Chief Ron McKiernan, speaking Monday while both Chief Al Duke and his deputy chief were unavailable. “Right now we’re still going through the report and trying to digest it.”

The report, officially titled “Kitsap Cooperative Services Feasibility Study,” was completed in June by Emergency Services Consulting inc.

After reviewing each department’s revenue, territory and operations, ESCi determined the three are often duplicating each other’s efforts, particularly in administrative and support services, and even a partial merger could save considerable time and money.

Referring to a complete merger as a “regional fire authority,” the group of SKFR stakeholders who finished meeting last week seemed to agree that integrating with the other departments would be difficult and delicate, but would ultimately improve service to their residents.

“I see a regional fire authority as combining the best of everybody,” Deputy Chief Dan Olson said, adding that it will take strong leadership and direction to create a “new template, but we will get a good product from it.”

CKFR Chief Ken Burdette agreed.

“Right now it looks very positive,” Burdette said, explaining that the next step will be to decide “if we move forward on this.”

He said CKFR’s board of commissioners will be considering the study’s recommendation at its next meeting this Monday, Aug. 13.

“If they approve it, we will move forward and put a plan together,” he added.

Once discussions begin, Burdette estimated the planning process would take 18 months to two years.

McKiernan said the process also is moving forward at his department, and he believed Chief Duke was preparing a report to present to the Bremerton City Council soon.

“At some point after that, all three agencies will get together,” he said, explaining that on a personal level, “a lot of us here are really hoping that it happens.”

McKiernan agreed with Senter’s estimation that “Drop Borders Now,” an agreement the agencies launched in April to ignore certain territory boundaries to improve response times, has been successful and provides a good example of the cooperative nature that already exists amongst the agencies.

“It’s a great example of the benefits (of working together), which is always in the best interest of the citizens out there,” he said.

When asked why the Poulsbo Fire Department and North Kitsap Fire & Rescue were not included in the feasibility study, Senter said it was because they didn’t sign on and agree to pay part of the consultants’ fee.

“They can certainly join later,” he said.

The feasibility study was launched by CKFR and BFD, and later SKFR was included, paying approximately $11,000.

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