CKFR might consolidate - again

"In a time of post-Initiative 695 budget consciousness, Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue and the Bremerton Fire Department have begun discussing the possibility of consolidating services.Representatives from both organizations met Jan. 31 to form several subcommittees to address the possibility of consolidating divisions or even merging.Such action has precedent in Washington. At least 42 cities in the state have merged into fire districts, while another 44 cities are provided fire and emergency medical service by fire districts, said Bremerton Fire Chief Al Duke.Similar annexations have been undertaken locally in Bainbridge Island and Poulsbo, said CKFR Chief Executive Officer Dick West. CKFR itself was formed through the 1999 merger of the former Kitsap County fire districts 1 and 15.It's not an uncommon thing for municipalities to do, he said. It could be very helpful.The subcommittees, comprised of fire commissioners, chief officers, Bremerton city councilmen and labor union representatives, were assigned to address various aspects of consolidation including operations, medical, fire prevention and education, training and administration. Primary reports are expected March 23.We're going to give them about six weeks to see what can be done, West said.Duke said he is looking forward to hearing what the committees find in their initial exploration.From that, we'll have a better idea of where to go from here, he said.The two chiefs began discussing the possibility of consolidation about three years ago, Duke said. Such conversations were inspired when the chiefs noted they each had a station about a mile apart.We could almost see each from across the street, Duke said.We've had discussion on and off, West said. We'd been talking somewhat tongue in cheek.With the passage of I-695, Duke said organizations throughout the area are looking for ways to become more efficient and budget-conscious.We needed to look at different operation across the board, Duke said.Because both organizations serve the same purpose, consolidating seemed like a beneficial approach for both sides.This would eliminate some redundancy, Duke said. We're not looking to decrease services to the public, but rather to increase services and efficiency throughout the area.West said merging the two organizations would be more of a radical approach than consolidating services because of different operational methods.But I don't know that we're dismissing that as unobtainable, West said.Both possibilities have their benefits, but the largest difficulty with merging would be the different taxing variations between the two organizations, Duke said.There's a lot of small details to take into consideration with something like this, he said. Sometimes the little things are the biggest stumbling blocks."

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