At a press conference Friday morning, City and County leaders jointly released the

City/County Fire Service Consolidation Study Report

.  The report recommends

against

the consolidation of the fire and rescue services that cooperatively protect the residents of Charlottesville and Albemarle, but operate as separate agencies. The

Matrix Consulting Group’s report

concluded consolidation “would result in additional costs rather than cost saving because of increased wage and benefit costs and an inability to reduce personnel needs through the consolidation of stations and functions.”

In addition to reviewing the pros and cons of consolidation, the report outlines twenty-three additional recommendations to improve operations.  One of those recommendations is that the City operate a new ambulance.  The City’s FY2008 budget was approved with a $1 million placeholder for the City to run its own ambulance service.  The City, and portions of the County, are currently served by the volunteer Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad (CARS).

The consultant’s report concludes:

“Although the report does not recommend consolidation there are a number of actions, described in the recommendations of the report, that the fire and EMS agencies can do, individually and collectively, to better coordinate their activities and ultimately improve services. We recommend that the fire and EMS agencies work systematically thorough the report to determine which recommendations will be acted upon and then develop an implementation schedule.”

The costs of community infrastructure for fire-rescue services are expected to be important issues in the

2007 local elections

and in the development of the FY 2009 budgets in both Charlottesville and Albemarle.

Brian Wheeler