I am writing to encourage the citizens of the South Beach to vote in favor of the proposed Regional Fire Authority.
I have worked with many different fire and EMS providers of all types from all volunteer districts to fully paid departments and combinations of both during my career in the Coast Guard. I have volunteered as a firefighter and EMT for a couple.
There are so many variables in providing service that I have never found a perfect system or organization.
I have worked with the members of South Beach Fire and EMS (then SB Ambulance Service) since I arrived here in 1994 and was a representative to the board of directors for the city for over 10 years.
Over those years, the districts and city have done a great job of looking beyond their individual borders and frequently changing to meet the increasing call volumes and ever increasing legal requirements in order to provide the best service they could to the citizens entire area.
I personally believe that the time is rapidly approaching when they will no longer be able to provide that service under the current agreement. I believe that while not perfect, the RFA model provides a greatly improved system for maximizing efficiency and poling resources.
Right now, there are five agencies that have responsibility to provide service to their individual area. That means five stations, five organizations, and enough equipment and people to adequately handle that. It also means five different administrative structures that must maintain liability insurance, proper legal agreements, reports for the different state and federal agencies, and the ability to account for separate funds, handle billing and payment for purchased services and equipment.
Because they are separate entities, a volunteer from one agency could potentially not be covered by insurance on a call in another area if all of the correct paperwork isn’t in order. With an RFA in place, there is one entity that can determine how many stations, engines and people are needed to provide response to the area. Training, equipment set up, procedures, administration, billing and insurance will all become uniform under a single organization. The new board can determine how many engines and tenders are needed to service the entire South Beach Area because there won’t be district boarders that have to be covered.
No one should kid themselves. Providing service is going to be costly and will require hard decisions by the new board, however the RFA will eliminate the current problem of how to handle the failure of a levy by one entity. Once the transition is complete, there will ultimately be a single set of operating and excess levies that all the citizens can vote up or down similar to the school district.
I won’t try to convince anyone that if an RFA is approved, all of the challenges related to providing emergency services will suddenly disappear and everything will become easy, but I believe an RFA is the best next step for what has been a long process of growing together to provide the citizens of the South Beach with excellent ambulance and fire service.
I encourage all citizens of the South Beach to approve the measures necessary to create a Regional Fire Authority.