A consulting group’s study could recommend consolidation for two local fire agencies.

The Stanfield Fire Department and the Hermiston Fire and Emergency Services District have signed on for a cooperative service study, an approximately six-month investigation into ways the departments can work together.

“Our expenses, like everyone else’s, are going up, and as a government service, we are just trying to be good stewards and spend money wisely,” Hermiston Fire Chief Pat Hart said. “We’re just looking for the most efficient way that we can do business.”

The first part of the cooperative service study will gather information the way both departments run, how the department is meeting national standards and what could be done to improve those standards and operations. The second part will look at how the two districts can work together more efficiently. After the investigation, the group — Emergency Services Consulting International — will give the two departments options on what to do next.

“They will look at if we can change the way we do business, if we can combine some of our training, some of our purchasing power, things like that,” Hart said. “Consolidation of the two districts may be one of those suggestions. The other end of that could be ‘Hey, you’re doing fine the way you are so stay the way you are.’ Those are two extremes.”

Hart said the departments will not know the study recommendations for at least six months, allowing time for investigation and analysis.

“Sometimes it’s good to have someone from outside come in and take a look at what we do and make suggestions for how we can do those things better,” he said.

Fire boards from both Hermiston and Stanfield have approved the study, Hart said, as well as the personal services contract from from Emergency Services Consulting International. The Umatilla Rural Fire District was also involved in early discussions but has since chosen not to pursue the study.

The Hermiston department is also asking district residents to weigh in on services and planning through a public survey.

“This survey is part of our strategic planning process. Basically we’re trying to figure out where this department is going to be and what we’re going to be doing in 10 or 15 years,” Hart said. “Before we can do that, we need to figure out what we’re doing right now, and part of that is getting the public’s input. As a service, we think we’re doing a good job. The surveys we’ve gotten back, most people think we’re doing a good job. We’d like to know more about what people think we should be doing that we’re not or what they think we can do better.”

Hart estimated the survey will take about 15 minutes to complete. The survey is available in a hard copy or electronically and can be taken in English or Spanish. Hard copies can be picked up at a Main Fire Station, 320 S. First St., dropped off at a Hermiston home or mailed. Electronic surveys can be emailed to an office or taken online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/externalenglish, English, or www.surveymonkey.com/s/externalspanish, Spanish. Multiple people from the same household may take the survey.

“We estimate that we have 12,000 homes in our service area. I would love to see a 10 percent return,” Hart said. “This is critical for us to find out what the community thinks about us, where we are and that we’re providing the services the community wants us to.”

Residents can continue to take the survey through the end of December.

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