The Central Yavapai Fire District governing board at its Tuesday meeting shut down the flashing lights and siren on its search for a new chief as the members agreed to look into a plan to consolidate management of CYFD and the Chino Valley Fire District.
The details of the plan have yet to be worked out, but the basis of the agreement would be to combine the administration of the two departments, which could result in lower expenses.
Board Clerk Debbie Horton said, "I'm a big supporter of consolidating government resources. I think that's how we save the taxpayer dollars."
But, she added, the board needs a "lot more information on how this would work."
The board was in agreement that it should not spend money, time or effort in a search for a new fire chief if it might partner up with Chino Valley, because the position could become unnecessary.
Chino Valley Fire Chief Scott Freitag was hired in September, and CYFD spokesman Rick Chase said he would likely take over the consolidated agencies' top slot.
"The department, seemingly, is running pretty well right now" under Interim Chief Scott Bliss, member Bob Page said. "I say postpone" the search.
Freitag was present at the board meeting and spoke briefly about how the plan might work.
"Our board has a similar feeling to you, and that's if there's an opportunity out there for us to explore efficiencies between the two organizations, making government more efficient, that's something we should at least take a look at," Freitag said.
He said his board had agreed to move forward with research at its meeting last week.
Bliss said that he'd run across a presentation on mergers like this one at a recent conference and that the speaker had suggested three criteria: the plan must be "operationally sound," it must make sense financially, and the politics of the situation must work.
"So, if we can address those three things and come up with an answer" then they should move forward with the plan, he said.
Freitag said, "What you're looking at is two governmental organizations that, for all intents and purposes, do the same job." He said the goal would be to eliminate duplication, but few, if any people, would lose jobs, because "both organizations are short administrative personnel."
There would be no changes to the number of firefighters, trucks, or stations, he said.
"There's not a magic million dollars we're going to find today," Freitag said, "but if we look 10, 15 years down the line, we will see savings."
CYFD's budget for fiscal year 2014 is just over $17 million; Chino Valley Fire District's is about $4.6 million.