Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

County, Hilliard Firefighters Talk about Merger

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

County, Hilliard Firefighters Talk about Merger

Article excerpt

Byline: WENDI ZONGKER

HILLIARD - Ever since Nassau County pulled the Hilliard Volunteer Fire Department's $48,000 contract because it had too few members in 2003, the town has funded the department.

But with 22 volunteers, Fire Chief Mike Sadler and town officials now are pushing to get that county money back.

Town officials earlier this year asked the Nassau County Commission to reinstate the contract and resume funding the department.

However, Nassau County Fire Rescue Chief Chuck Cooper is recommending combining the county's professional station next to the Hilliard Airpark with the volunteer department.

Cooper said the merger would benefit both the town and the county by providing more manpower to respond to fires in the town. It would also improve Hilliard's Insurance Service Office rating, which would lower insurance premiums.

Sadler would continue to head the volunteer department, but the volunteers would be managed by Cooper when responding to fires, Cooper said.

And both the county and volunteer departments would be staffed with paid and volunteer firefighters.

Sadler said he plans to meet with Cooper to discuss the benefits of a merger and report back to Town Council.

Cooper said the county could either pay the volunteer department a flat fee for assisting county firefighters - as it did before - or create a formula based on the number of calls the department responds to and how many certified firefighter volunteers are on hand during the call.

He said whatever agreement is worked out will have to be approved by Town Council and the Nassau Commission.

"It's going to take quite a few pencil-sharpening sessions to figure out what will work," Cooper said.

Nassau County Coordinator Edward Sealover said Nassau currently is only funding volunteer fire departments in the unincorporated areas of the county. …

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