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Consolidation still a possibility for fire departments

The potential merger of Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue and the Bremerton Fire Department is still on the table.

The CKFR Board of Commissioners met Monday to discuss a letter sent to the department by BFD Chief Al Duke Nov. 18. The letter stated the city of Bremerton is still interested in some form of consolidation, saying it “would promote greater efficiencies in staffing, equipment acquisition, and use, reduction in service overlap and redundancy and overall service delivery enhancement.”

The letter also asked CKFR a series of questions regarding the financial model, labor contracts and other details that would affect the framework of a potential merger.

“Most of these questions were made to generate discussion,” CKFR Chief Ken Burdette said.

He said the departments work together extensively due to their adjacent borders, adding that the further benefits of a merger are obvious.

“It’s about efficiency,” he said. “I’m not going to say we are going to save money, but we are going to provide better service.”

After more than two years of talks, along with preliminary discussion early in the decade, CKFR, BFD and South Kitsap Fire & Rescue pulled out of talks of forming an all-encompassing West Sound Fire and Rescue Regional Fire Authority on Sept. 15.

Burdette said the departments also talked extensively about a potential merger in 2000 and 2001, and have casually talked about the possibility long before that.

“We have lots of information to use from the past, much of which is still valid,” he said. “This needs to be a cooperative effort.”

CKFR’s union also is still interested in working on increased consolidation, said Steve Davison, vice president of the Professional Firefighters of Kitsap County, Local 2819.

In the letter, Duke also invited CKFR to give a presentation regarding the department’s interest in a potential merger during the month of December, though the proper forum was not specified.

CKFR Commissioner Bob Muhleman said any talks of a merger must not add significant expenses, especially with the current economic climate.

“It’s not going to cost more money,” he said. “If that was the case, we wouldn’t be doing it.”

The commissioners discussed whether the departments should look at a larger permanent agreement or work on contractual agreements.

CKFR Commissioner Dave Fergus said some contractual agreements are probably necessary in the short-term because any long-term deal must be finalized on the ballot.

“The reality is that it’s going to be up to the voters so it will take time,” he said.

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