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'Rubber hits the road' on fire merger

"The Bremerton Fire Department and Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue are one step closer to becoming a single organization after a report Thursday by a feasibility study subcommittee.The vote was unanimous to move forward with a presentation to the Bremerton City Council about combining the two fire services, said CKFR Chief Executive Officer Richard West. West also served as chairman of the feasibility subcommittee.Bremerton Fire Chief Al Duke said, I was pleased. I believe we will provide a better service to our citizens. At this point we can make a presentation (to the Bremerton City Council) saying (annexation) is feasible, and these are the areas we need to look at.Duke said they'll probably make the presentation in December.The union of the two departments technically would be an annexation, CKFR's West noted.(State) statute says a municipality (such as Bremerton) can only annex into the fire district, West said.But The reality is it is in fact a merger of two organizations. People can call it anything they want - consolidation, merger, becoming one organization, he added.The subcommittee's positive vote was critical to the process, said Brian Danskin, president of CKFR's Local 2819 of the International Association of Fire Fighters union, in an earlier interview.This is where the rubber meets the road, he said.The union firefighters have the most to gain or loose, depending on their perspective, West said. They have a lot to say about whether we proceed.Bargaining units from CKFR and Bremerton's IAFF Local 447 already have had meetings, and participated in the feasibility study, Danskin said.At any point in the process any one of (the groups) can say, 'time out', he said. It's still a work in progress, we're still working on things, but overall the guys are happy with the merger.BFD medical officer Stan Plyler was present at the meeting. He said while there are still details to work out, the overall mood for annexation was positive.If it's best for the citizens tax wise, and a better service, I'm all for it, Plyler said.The subcommittee has been working since last January on the report, which covers what it would take to merge the two departments, West said.The subcommittee of 20 included the two fire chiefs, division and union heads, fire district commissioners and Bremerton council members.The Bremerton City Council will be getting much of the information for the first time formally, West also noted.Our (commissioner board) has been participating on the subcommittee from time to time so they get regular reports, West said. Two of their (nine) councilmen, Cecil McConnell and Wayne Olsen, were on the feasibility subcommittee.Bremerton's council has a pivotal part to play.In order for the annexation to take place, the council has to agree to relinquish control of their fire department, Danskin said.Danskin said the move to merge was prompted by propinquity. Bremerton's Station 45, off Trenton Avenue by Sylvan Way, is not too far from CKFR's Station 3 on Olympus Drive, near Sylvan.We were literally passing each other (going on runs). It just didn't seem right that we had all these resources, and couldn't share them, he said.That kind of got the whole ball rolling.A merger of the two departments could be the beginning of one fire district for all of Central Kitsap. Fire District 12 in Chico already has formally requested that discussions begin on a merger with CKFR. "

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