County manager Matt Denton presented the county commission with a resolution authorizing the creation of a special service district for the purpose of implementing a paid fire department in unincorporated areas of the county.
The referendum would implement a 20 year program that would reduce the number of fire departments from nine to seven and relocate all of them, with the exception of the newest fire station at Lake Creek.
The reduction and relocation of the fire departments would result in more efficiency and reduce overlap of fire districts in the county, according to the county manager.
Polk County Fire Chief Randy Lacey says a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant would facilitate the cost of hiring full-time personnel to staff the county fire departments.
He says that providing an adequate quantity of volunteers for the fire stations has been difficult not only here, but all across the country in rural communities.
“This is a project that we’ve been working on for a couple of years,” said Lacey. “This is something along with the fact that all over the United States there is starting to be a decrease of volunteers, and that was one of the reasons we started looking into this, because we don’t have the volunteer base we had 10 years ago.”
Additional personnel and the construction of the new fire departments will take place throughout the 20-year period of the plan, and Lacey says an improved ISO rating and more importantly, faster response times should result.
“One of our big concerns right now is response times,” Lacey said. “You’re talking about a 17 minute response time now, if you had at least one paid guy, you’re talking about a 4 minute response time.”
County Commissioners will vote on whether to send the resolution on the ballot this November when they meet in their regular monthly business meeting tonight at 7:00 p.m.