Thursday, February 22, 2018
Letters To The Editor

Letters: New Port Richey Fire Department should merge with county

New Port Richey: merge fire service

With the exit of yet another city manager New Port Richey once again finds itself facing the financial challenges of the future without a leader at its helm. Thank you, Mr. John Schneiger, for your hard work and attempts to make our elected officials face the reality of the hard choices that are needed to keep New Port Richey's head above water. It's unfortunate that the attempts to balance the budget resulted in the unemployment of 10 individuals. There exist other options that would have ensured their continued employment but moved to ease some of the city's financial burden.

One suggestion floated during this year's budgetary process was the combining of several aspects of public safety, E911 call answering, emergency communications and fire rescue. This idea was quickly sunk without any serious evaluation or consideration. Although it is nice to attempt to maintain the small, hometown feel of New Port Richey, the reality of continuing to fund a fire department must be given a fair and honest evaluation. As an example of the benefits to the city budget, the citizens of our town and the employees of the fire department, I encourage the city leaders to review the incorporation of the Dade City Fire Department into Pasco County Fire Rescue.

The potential budgetary savings to the city would be in the costs of equipment maintenance and replacement, apparatus maintenance and replacement, and the large costs associated with personnel. The costs of their medical director and ongoing mandatory fire and EMS continuing education would be passed on to the county.

By becoming a part of Pasco County Fire Rescue, the citizens and businesses of New Port Richey would benefit from the availability of more first-responding apparatus and emergency personnel to calls. The risks of lost emergency calls and intersystem transfer delays would be minimized through a unified E911 call answering and emergency communications system.

With the incorporation of Dade City, every qualified firefighter was offered a job with the county in a comparable position. Since then, the former Dade City firefighters have moved up through the ranks of Pasco County Fire Rescue to become battalion chiefs, captains, driver engineers and paramedics.

The savings and benefits of New Port Richey turning over its fire department activities to the county could would have saved the jobs of those 10 city employees. As the city leaders look ahead at the looming $9 million shortfall in the next five years, the time has come for a serious evaluation of cutting their operational expenses. Getting out of the fire rescue business can assist in this process yet ensure the city's dedication to the safety of its citizens, business owners and visitors.

Duncan Hitchcock, New Port Richey

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