Discussions about the possibility of combining the Jefferson County Fire District No. 1 with the Jefferson County Emergency Management Services District (ambulance service) have been going on, in one form or another, for at least 17 years.
Now the group spearheading the current talks, including representatives of both the City of Madras and Jefferson County as well as the fire and ambulance districts, are considering hiring a facilitator to work toward something all can support. Both the city and county have agreed to contribute to the effort.
The talks are worthwhile.
All four agencies agree that they want what’s best for those who live in Jefferson County. What they don’t agree on is how to get there. Some support consolidation of the two public safety agencies; others oppose it. A facilitator could help resolve those differences.
Even if consolidation were not to happen, something a bit less perfect could be the result of working with someone trained in helping a group with diverse views find common ground. A skilled facilitator could, for example, help the two service agencies, plus the city and county, come up with two or three changes that might not be perfect but that clearly would improve service and financial stability for the fire and ambulance districts.
That’s important. A study by the Matrix Consulting Group released in May 2019 did suggest some apparently simple changes that would improve service by the districts. Changes in the workings of the dispatch center, for example, could make tracking equipment easier. Too, the study recommended that both agencies adopt programs for equipment replacement that set out specific measures, including age and wear and tear on equipment and vehicles, to decide when things should be replaced.
We continue to believe that consolidation would serve Jefferson County better in the long run than having two separate agencies, each with its own budget issues, handle public safety. That’s not likely, however, in the immediate future. If a facilitator can help all involved agree to and work together for smaller improvements, at least that would be a step in the right direction.