MADRAS, OR -- Jefferson County officials are looking into whether to combine fire and ambulance services. In most Central Oregon communities, the two are managed by one public agency. But, in Jefferson County, the fire district is run by the county, while medics work for a private, not-for-profit company. "These two departments are both kind of equipment-heavy, as well as personnel," says County Commissioner Mike Ahern. "So, if there are ways to make personnel efficiencies, which I think obviously it would appear there would be, and then a way that they could combine their efforts to improve their apparatuses and stuff."
The county has hired an independent research firm to investigate the pros and cons of both the current system and a potential combined Fire/EMS agency. "We’re just wondering – or asking the question – 'should there be two of these or should they combine or not?' And, really, we’re going into it with a pretty open mind. It’s more of an efficiency study," says Ahern.
The public can weigh in on the issue and talk with researchers during a meeting at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, Thursday evening. Commissioner Ahern tells KBND News, "They’re going to take input from the public, and of course do some of their own investigations with Fire personnel and the budget; and they’ll make a report. Nobody’s really obligated to follow it." But, he says, "I’ll tell you this, there is no hidden agendas. All of the people are going in with an open mind and we’ll see if we can have a better outcome than what we’re doing now - Or not."
Ahern says the independent firm will take all the data and develop a recommendation, which he expects will come in the fall. He acknowledges it would be a big change, if the two agencies combine, "One or the other would have to dissolve. It would probably be the ambulance, simple because the fire district is already a public entity. And then there would be a merger."
Thursday's public meeting starts at 6 p.m. at the Mackey Conroy Building at the fairgrounds in Madras. Residents are also invited to provide feedback through an anonymous online survey