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Date of Issue: February 25, 2009

Hard data needed on fire district consolidation

West Manatee Fire Rescue Inspector Jim Davis, left, recently graduated from Manatee Community College with a degree in fire science. Congratulating him on his achievement is WMFR Chief Andy Price. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

West Manatee Fire Rescue Chief Andy Price told the Feb. 19 meeting of the WMFR district board that consolidation of the county’s fire districts was discussed at a recent meeting of the Manatee Council of Governments.

The issue was brought up by County Commissioner Joe McClash, who said the county is struggling with funding Emergency Medical Services and suggested the fire districts merge to save money.

Price said the fire chiefs at the meeting did not disagree with the concept, but the primary question is who will pay for a feasibility study. The chief said a feasibility study could cost between $200,000 and $300,000.

“Consolidation is not a new idea,” said Price. “At this point, I don’t know where it’s going. My position is, and has always been, that until we do a study, we can’t say consolidation is right or wrong. We need unbiased data.”

Price said McClash told the council he would meet with the chiefs of each fire district to discuss consolidation and report back at the next council meeting in April.

In other business, the board received its 2007-08 audit report from auditor Ed Leonard, who praised the district’s accounting procedures.

“It was a good, clean audit. You have hard numbers, and we had to make no specific adjustments,” he said.

Leonard said a “clean report” is the highest opinion he could give on an audit.

WMFR had $5.391 million in revenues and expenses were $92,343 less during the reporting period, he said.

In addition, said Leonard, “The district does not have a lot of debt and it has $2.8 million in its balance fund.”