East county fire agencies to be merged into one
On Monday night East Carbon and Sunnyside cities conducted a special meeting to formally discuss the creation of a combined local fire department. Members of both city councils and both city fire departments were in attendance. By evenings end a decision had been reached and an inter-local agreement was drafted to facilitate the joining of the departments. That agreement will have to be formally accepted by each city's council before the process can be finalized.
"All (personal concerns) aside we have to get this done because it's whats best for the public safety in both of our towns," stated East Carbon City Council Member Dave Maggio. The issue was brought to a head for both cities by the fact that the Community Impact Board (CIB) will be meeting Nov. 2 and both cities are on the agenda.
According to East Carbon City Mayor Orlando La Fontaine and Sunnyside City Mayor Bruce Andrews, members of the CIB had told them in no uncertain terms that neither city would receive the funds for their public safety buildings unless they combined their departments. This would enable the CIB to fund for only one building and assist in public safety for both towns. It is the hope of the cities that by providing their firemen with better facilities and a possibly increased stipend they will see an increased participation completed training and other duties. "We don't do it for the money." said East Carbon Firefighter James Wayman. "We do it because we love it."
The combined department will request funding for a new facility to be built on county donated property located on the north side of U.S. Highway 123 in Sunnyside, commonly referred to as the Circle Way property. This site has definite logistical advantages as it is located directly on the highway and would provide expedient access to East Carbon, Sunnyside and the Columbia Subdivision. East Carbon city requested that the land be deeded to both cities jointly.
Sunnyside City Fire Chief, Gene Madrid, detailed how the new facility will aid both fire departments. He focused on the new training facility saying that the departments have never had a place where they could train together as a squad.
The new facility will aid local public safety in many ways. The plans will provide new bays for all fire trucks owned by the cities and will be heated allowing the department to have all vehicles ready for action year-round. The new building will also encompass Sunnyside city's ambulance garage which will be walled off in a separate area of the building per state law. The current ambulance garage is located in the mouth of the canyon on U.S. Highway 123 in Sunnyside. Moving it to the new site will significantly increase the logistical possibility for faster emergency personnel response time.
The planned facility will also provide the cities with office space for both fire and ambulance services, showers and laundry for the department and a training facility. "We have to look at what is best for our firemen and public we serve," said Maggio. "This agreement and building will help everyone."
The agreement states that East Carbon and Sunnyside cities will split the operational and maintenance costs of the fire department portion of the building with Sunnyside still maintaining the entirety of the ambulance garage as it will remain their city's responsibility.
Another issue that promotes the joining of the departments is organization. "We all have full time jobs, you can't tell us about a training the night before it happens," said Wayman. All present at the meeting Monday night felt that if the departments were to combine, organization for both would go up exponentially. According to East Carbon Firefighter Brian Powell added that training and organization is something that definitely needs to increase within the department.
The cities decided that the chief and assistant chief of the new combined department would be appointed jointly by the mayors, with the chief having authority to appoint all officers under his command after that point. Powell stressed to the mayors that it is imperative that the new chief be hired on the basis of credentials and experience.
To foster unity within the departments, both mayors directed the firefighters to rename the department and create a new logo.
"This is something for our communities to proud of," said mayor LaFontaine. "If we can work this out and work together it will make both communities a safer place to live."