Hurricane, Rockville-Springdale Fire districts discuss merging

The Hurricane Valley and Rockville-Springville Fire districts discuss merge, Hurricane, Utah, Feb. 11, 2015 | Photo by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News

HURRICANE – The Hurricane Valley and Rockville-Springville Fire districts sat down Wednesday night at the Hurricane Valley Fire Special Services District board meeting to discuss a proposal to merge the two districts. The two agreed that a formal evaluation by a third party must be completed to assess potential cost savings, shortfalls and the general feasibility of the two entities combining services.

Hurricane Fire Chief Tom Kuhlmann said he wants to benefit the service area and know what local citizens want. To that end, a Nov. 12, 2014, letter to the Rockville-Springdale Fire Protection District from Hurricane Valley Fire Special Services District Board Chairman Bruce Densley was presented for discussion at the meeting. A first phase of evaluation will be to public survey residents, businesses, visitors and elected city and fire district officials.

The letter also delineated the other two phases to be completed for the evaluation.

The second phase would be bringing together experts in finance, fire service, emergency medical services, government revenue and budgeting, legal counsel experienced in fire district law, as well as community and business representatives, who will review service provisions in relation to survey results, industry standards, revenue generation and community expectations.

The third phase would be creating a minimum of three business models derived from information from the first two phases.

In the meeting, Kuhlmann pointed out that the evaluation process could take three to six months but would be done with donated professional services. A study such as the one proposed would normally cost $30,000-$40,000, he said. The Hurricane district wants to be “generous neighbors,” he said; and, if the two districts join together, it would not be a hostile takeover.

Newly appointed Rockville-Springdale Fire Protection District Chairwoman, Luci Francis, said the study should be unbiased and comprehensive, showing strategies for operating more efficiently. Francis also expressed her doubts, admitting that her fire district has expensive ambulance service and wondering if the Hurricane district would want to take it on.

“In fire service, we help each other out,” was Kuhlmann’s response to her concerns, further explaining that he is regularly on the phone with other fire departments seeking advice.

Francis said she has an open mind and her district will go into the study with no preconceived notions and would not be “throwing data away.”

Kuhlmann assured Francis that the type of study being done is very thorough and would give both districts a much clearer picture of how to proceed in the future.

Other business

Nearly a week after the Hurricane City Council approved paying emergency medical service personnel costs for two mountain biking events, “6 Hours in Frog Hollow,” and “25 Hours in Frog Hollow,” as well as two running events, the “Sand Hollow Marathon” and the “Hurricane Mud Run,” the Fire District Board approved an in-kind donation for the use of equipment during all four of them.

If the personnel costs exceed what the city approved, then the event organizers will pay the difference, Kuhlmann said, and he would also like the events to show that Hurricane City is a sponsor. Several board members expressed their hope that the events would ask for less monetary support from the city and fire district. Kuhlmann said that next year, the organizers need to come to the fire board asking for support.

The fire district board also approved a motion to provide non-ambulatory transport service, with a vehicle it already owns, outside the boundaries of the fire district for a 90-day period. After the three months is over, the board will reassess the decision based on statistics and recommendations Kuhlmann provides.

Kuhlmann said $180,000 was just cut from the district’s budget so it would not be spending money freely and has asked a professional from the Bank of America to provide the district with fiscal oversight.

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