Are fire department mergers a good idea?

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Greg Peck
February 22, 2013

Beloit City Manager Larry Arft hears how three fire departments in southern Dane County are discussing consolidation to cut response times and save tax dollars. He realizes that the city and town of Beloit fire departments have five stations within 12 square miles. However, of the notion that the departments might unite, “It won’t ever happen,” he told reporter Catherine W. Idzerda in Monday’s Gazette.

Residents in rural areas have strong attachments to their fire departments. They fear the loss of local control and the possibility that teaming up with city departments will cost them money. That’s because cities usually employ unionized firefighters, while town firefighters typically are unpaid volunteers or paid per call.

As Idzerda reported, however, workplace changes are making it more difficult for some volunteer departments to have enough firefighters ready to respond at any hour.

Absent complete consolidation, are there other ways more departments could strike cooperative deals?

We’ll share our perspectives in our editorial Saturday.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook

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