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Consulting firm is hired to study the fire department and ambulance efficiency.

HOLLY M. GILL - Robert Finn, of the Matrix Consulting Group, explains the process the firm will use to assess the efficiency of the fire and ambulance.A Texas-based consulting firm held its first community meeting March 15, on whether or not Jefferson County Fire District and Jefferson County Emergency Medical Services should consider merging.

In a room full of people primarily connected to the fire department, EMS, county or city of Madras, Robert Finn, of the Matrix Consulting Group, of Keller, Texas, said that he was trying "to get a feel for the satisfaction with the current level of service."

HOLLY M. GILL - From left to right, Jefferson County Emergency Medical Services counsel Paul Sumner, JCEMS Chief Mike Lepin, Madras City Councilor Richard Ladeby, Madras Police Chief Tanner Stanfill, County Administrator Jeff Rasmussen, Jefferson County Fire Chief Brian Huff, consultant Robert Finn, Madras City Councilor Bartt Brick and Culver Mayor Nancy Diaz prepare for the first meeting with Matrix Consulting Group.
The study, which will take about four months to complete, will focus on "the overall functional and operational efficiency of the current fire and EMS delivery system to determine the most practical and efficient manner to provide emergency services," he noted.

The consultants will look at everything from options for sharing services to full consolidation.

Matrix has already begun the process of gathering input from elected and appointed officials in the county, as well as from fire and EMS personnel.

"We're getting input from external stakeholders so we understand what's going on in this county," said Finn, who intends to have a "good, sound, factual basis for the study."

The idea for a new study was a result of a Sept. 19, 2017, meeting at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds on how the two organizations could best serve the public. At the end of the meeting, officials from Jefferson County, Madras, Culver and Metolius all voiced support for a feasibility study.

Jefferson County conducted a formal request for proposal for the study last month and received four responses, according to County Counsel Alexa Gassner. Matrix Consulting Group was the low bidder at $49,500.

"We had a subsequent interview with Matrix and the city, county, fire and EMS all participated," said Gassner.

The county will pay $22,510 toward the study, with the city paying $20,000 and the fire district, $6,990. JCEMS was not able to contribute.

Although both fire and ambulance personnel regularly respond to accidents, fires and emergencies, there are key differences between the two entities.

The fire district has set boundaries and taxing authority, collecting "a little over $1.18 (per $1,000 value)," Finn said.

The fire department has six permanent, full-time personnel, who are on duty from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

"After 5, it's a voluntary system," said Finn. "There are faster response times in the daytime and longer reponse times (after 5)."

JCEMS, is a special health care district, which is larger than the fire district, but has no taxing authority, receives no tax dollars, and is entirely fee based.

The district went out for a 41 cents per $1,000 permanent tax levy in May 2017, but the measure went down by a vote of 1,766 no to 871 yes.

The ambulance has 24-hour per day staffing, with nearly twice as many full-time staffers, plus part-time personnel and a medical director.

Besides considering response times and the level of local interest in having the two districts share services or consolidate, Finn said, "We're going to look at several years of financial data."

Matrix Consulting Group hopes that community members will take a five-minute online survey at www.surveymonkey.com/r/JCfireEMS to help the group with its study.

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