Five fire districts in the Rim Country are looking for ways to provide better service for their respective residents.
The Northern Gila County Fire Districts Merger Study Group has united to research the feasibility of combining five fire districts around the Rim Country. It has selected Scott Flake, a financial adviser for Edward Jones, as the chairman.
The five districts participating in the study are the Diamond Star, Tonto Village, Whispering Pines, Beaver Valley and Houston Mesa fire districts. The Christopher Kohl's fire district will decide in February if they want to join the study.
The purpose of the study group is to determine the financial, organizational and procedural benefits to having one fire district instead of the six already in existence, Flake said.
The group has no authority to make any decisions regarding the possible merger, Flake said. It serves to collect research about the fire districts and determine if a conversion to a uniform system could possibly free up funds.
Flake said one way to save money would be to look at the fact that each of the fire districts has its own bookkeeper. Uniting the six districts, so that there would only be one bookkeeper, would free up money and manpower, which could be used in other areas to provide better service.
Flake said procedures and organization are different among the fire districts, but that a merger implementing a standardized system could save time and money.
Once the study group is finished with its research, it will present a final report containing all the data and recommendations to each fire board of the participating districts. The fire boards will then determine if a merger is the appropriate course of action to take.
Once the fire boards have evaluated the data, some districts may decide to merge, all the districts may decide to merge or none of the districts may decide to merge, Flake said.
Flake hopes for a final report within six months.
The group is comprised of chairman Flake and vice chairman Charlie Conover as well as one fire district board member, the fire chief and one member of the public from each fire district involved.
Meetings are tentatively planned for once a month with additional work-study sessions as necessary, Flake said. The meetings will be held at various fire stations throughout the fire districts.