3/12/2014 10:07:00 AM 'Devil in the details' of potential fire district merger
By Scott Orr & Sue Tone Prescott Valley Tribune
Attorneys for Central Yavapai and Chino Valley fire districts are working out the details of a joint management agreement and will present a draft to their respective boards in the near future.
The district governing boards met in a joint session this past week to figure out what the savings might be by combining administrations. The plan is not a full merger of the two agencies, only an administrative contractual agreement.
The two district fire chiefs, Chino Valley's Scott Freitag and CYFD's Interim Chief Scott Bliss, presented the concept to the combined boards in a tag-team format that CYFD Board Chairman Steve Rutherford called "The Scott and Scott Show."
One of the keys points they returned to several times was that the plan would not result in an immediate savings of a great deal of money.
"We anticipate that the Joint Management Agreement that we have been working on will be essentially cost neutral in the short term, but will result in better, more efficient, use of existing administrative personnel," Bliss said this week.
The two chiefs presented several organization charts that illustrated potential changes in how personnel could be re-deployed to take advantage of the larger staff.
Freitag said one consideration of a joint management agreement involves providing administrative needs in which each district is lacking. Chino has more administrative office space than CYFD but lacks two important administrators - a human resources director and a finance director.
"This will hopefully limit the need to hire some management/administrative positions that might otherwise be needed in the long term if the growth of the area meets picks up as some groups have projected," Bliss said.
They emphasized that no one currently on the payroll would lose their job if the two administrations were combined. Service should remain the same, Bliss said.
One of the major concerns is getting what Rutherford called "buy-in" from all the parties concerned, from firefighters to the municipal governments they serve. Thus far, Freitag and Bliss said, everyone to whom they had presented the plan was in support.
The next step, Bliss said, was to begin to work out details, everything from how much time the fire chief devotes to each district to a possible change in the chief's uniform shirt. That could mean designing a new logo or shirt with both current logs, he added.
The fire chief could be mobile, working out of a vehicle, but certainly the combined administration would be able to more efficiently use the two departments' office facilities, Freitag said.
If the plan goes forward, Freitag is likely to be named chief, both because CYFD is currently between chiefs and because Freitag is a relatively new hire at Chino Valley, having started in August 2013. The CYFD board interviewed him for the potential job in an executive session at Wednesday's meeting.
CYFD board attorney Nick Cornelius suggested that the two boards might use, as a kind of template, a similar agreement worked out by Chino Valley board attorney Bill Whittington between the Montezuma-Rimrock and Camp Verde fire districts.