No rave reviews for fire merger study

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Representatives of Emergency Services Consulting International said their feasibility study of the Englewood and Littleton fire departments indicates changes must be made because the status quo can’t be sustained long-term.

But there wasn’t a lot of approval for the consultants’ two favored options of a much more stringent, detailed inter-governmental agreement to strengthen collaboration, or establishment of a joint fire agency.

No suggestion was made by either city council to move forward with either option. But, near the end of the meeting, Littleton Council Member Phil Cernanec suggested having each council select about eight items from the consultant’s list of 42 strategic initiatives, and suggested that each of the city managers and fire chiefs spend the summer determining whether the initiatives improve efficiency or reduce costs and then whether it is feasible to institute those initiatives.

The presentation was made March 4 at a joint Englewood/Littleton city council meeting along with representatives of the Littleton Fire Protection District and the Highlands Ranch Metro District.

Jim Broman of ESCI did about a 25-minute power point presentation about the final report. He noted the findings were contained in 42 strategic initiatives created because of the potential to improve service delivery, eliminate duplication or be able to avoid additional costs.

Englewood Council Member Rick Gillit, the first to speak during the time for questions, said the suggestion was the creation of an intergovernmental agreement, but the two departments had such an agreement that was working well.

Broman said the current agreement doesn’t move the two departments toward greater collaboration, and that a more extensive agreement should be explored.

Gillit responded that he felt the idea of the study was to determine how both cities could save significant money. However, the current reported savings is about $78,000 split between the two cities. He added that suggested collaboration on issues like a salary schedule would raise costs for Englewood and probably wipe out the savings.

Littleton Council Member Jerry Valdes agreed.

He said he expected the study to identify efficiencies that would produce cost savings and he doesn’t see that in the report.

Englewood Council Member Linda Olson also said she expected the study to identify significant financial savings for both cities.

“I wonder if the study has identified some of the strategic initiatives are fairly simple to do and can improve efficiency,” she said.

David Oppenheim, president of the board of directors for the Littleton Fire Protection District, raised an issue about the suggestion that the two departments form a fire district authority.

“Fire authorities are created by a vote of the people, not by city councils,” he said. “I have talked to a lot of people in the area and no one supports creating a fire agency, because creating an agency will mean they will pay higher property taxes.”