Unified Fire Service delayed two more years

The delays and stall tactics continue. This time its at the county level with fire protection. Last June, a citizen task force advised the county consolidate its volunteer and paid fire departments under one command.

WEAR TV 3 reports that Ferry Pass Chief Robbie Whitfield, the head of the Escambia Volunteer Firefighters Association, has agreed to work with county fire officials on having a plan for a unified command in place by September 30th of 2008. In exchange, the county commissioners would extend the current contract through the current contract and structure through September of 2009.

Last month, commissioners announced they would not renegotiate a new contract with the volunteer departments, and instead bring them all under the direction of Escambia Fire Chief Ken Perkins when their current contracts expire in September. This is the reason that Whitfield is offering to work with the county.

However, this is another decision delayed.

Two observations: Had the commissioners assigned staff to begin planning for the transition back in June or July, we could have made this effective Sept 30, 2008. The BOCC won a concession from the VFDs, but it’s all talk on the VFD side and no action. Watch for the VFDs to work hard to undermine the plans.

Commissioner Mike Whitehead played a lead role in this and demanded that Memorandum of Understanding requiring that Whitfield work on a the transition. Good job!