An ordinance to study the structure, costs and duties of all three fire districts which provide fire and emergency services in Middletown will be offered for debate and vote at the next meeting of Middletown's Common Council.
The ordinance, if passed, will generate a report, written by a Citywide Fire Services Cost Committee which will provide the Council:
... a comprehensive assessment of all costs now and projected over the next five (5) years related to providing for fire safety related services including but not limited to personnel, equipment, department maintenance, the cost per run, the cost of mutual and automatic aid and bonding indebtedness for the next five years; and any recommendations it may suggest regarding controlling such costs; and
At least one councilor, David Bauer, feels that if the Council adopts this ordinance that it will be overstepping its bounds.
According to an email sent to The Eye when asked for comment, Bauer wrote:
It would be great to know the information that the proposed resolution asks for, but neither the Common Council nor the Public Safety Committee can strong-arm our two independent Fire Districts in Middletown. The South Fire and Westfield Fire Districts get their mandate from State Statutes and the Common Council should respect their independence.
The financial challenges for any Fire Department are becoming increasingly difficult. The Fire Department is the First Responder for all 911 Medical calls in Middletown and these calls constitute about 2/3’s of Fire Service calls. With diesel fuel projected to cost $5, the cost of dispatching a 350-450 thousand dollar vehicle for a Medical call may become too expensive. We need to find a balance between answering a great number of EMS calls and having the manpower and equipment we need to fight a smaller number of fires and motor vehicle accidents.
I believe a better approach for the Common Council would be to lead by example and show that we are performing the type of financial cost study on the City functions that are completely under the purview of the Council. As a first step, I intend to introduce a resolution at the next Council meeting that charges the whole Common Council to review the makeup and scope of all Council Committees and Commissions to insure that they effectively carry out the Council’s duties mandated by City Charter. The organization of these Committees and Commissions has not changed for a generation while the technology and process of delivering City Services has changed dramatically in many instances.
The proposed ordinance is scheduled for discussion at the next Council meeting, Monday October 6.