Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Messenger: Failed Fire Consolidation Holds Lessons for Future of St. Louis Regionalism

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Messenger: Failed Fire Consolidation Holds Lessons for Future of St. Louis Regionalism

Article excerpt

As the St. Louis region struggles with its division and contemplates more unity, the recent attempt by five central St. Louis County cities to create a unified fire command stands as a cautionary tale.

"It was 100 percent, pure window dressing," says Kurt Becker.

Becker is a Clayton firefighter. He's also the district vice president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 2665, the union that represents most of the firefighters in the five cities that considered a merger of sorts: Clayton, Brentwood, Maplewood, Richmond Heights and Rock Hill.

In late August, Rock Hill dropped out of the East Central Fire Command proposal, scuttling it for now.

That's good news, Becker says.

It's not that he and his fellow firefighters are against consolidation, he says. Quite the opposite. He just wants to see consolidation that makes sense.

"I'm 1,000 percent in favor of finding a better way of doing things," Becker says. "If you look at the central county area, there's no reason that is not one fire district. We could get rid of a lot of these duplicative positions."

When it comes to consolidation discussions whether it's fire departments or the infamous city-county divide the region's layer upon layer of repetitive government functions is one of the driving forces for change.

This year, when the nonprofit Better Together created a task force to study the specifics of a merger of some sort between the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County, one number told the story: $2.5 billion.

That's how much is spent on municipal government services in the combined areas of the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County, with its 89 municipalities.

That's nearly $1 billion more per year than Louisville, Ky., and Indianapolis two cities that long ago consolidated government services between previously separate cities and counties.

So when Clayton and the other four cities started talking about unifying fire services, Becker was hopeful.

None of the fire departments in those cities staff their firetrucks with the national standard of four firefighters per truck. With consolidation, Becker figured there would be enough savings to add firefighters and improve services provided to taxpayers. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.