New group's focus: unifying the services
Some may question why three longtime Madras-area leaders decided at the same time to run for the Jefferson County Emergency Services Board, and each with the main theme of working toward unifying the EMS and the Jefferson County Fire District No. 1.
The answer is that all three – Janet Brown, Mike Ahern and Joe Krenowicz – are part of a committee called Community for Unified Fire and Ambulance Services, a group that has met regularly since December to push for merging Jefferson County fire and ambulance services.
The group is headed by former Madras mayor Rick Allen, himself a longtime Madras community activist.
An April 12 news release from Allen says the group formed out of frustration. In 2019, a $45,000 study by Matrix Consulting Group recommended merging the fire district and EMS district into one emergency service district, yet individuals on the committee saw no progress toward consolidation.
Committee members were particularly disappointed the EMS Board of Directors eventually expressed unwillingness to consider a merger. At a candidate forum April 15, EMS Board members Louise Muir and Pat Neff both said they found flaws in the Matrix study.
The EMS Board has repeatedly expressed they will not discuss consolidating the two agencies. In December, the board sent a letter to the Emergency Services Task Force saying if merger is the goal, then "this district will decline to further participate."
The Matrix study was the most recent study into a potential merger. Other studies and efforts have come and gone over the past several years.
Allen, a long-term fire volunteer, took off his volunteer hat to take up the cause of uniting the two agencies under one umbrella. Running three candidates who favor consolidation tests public backing of a merger effort. If all three pro-merger candidates win, they would have a majority on the five-person EMS board.
The release says the community-based group has held more than 30 hours of listening sessions with first responders from both fire and ambulance departments. The group has listened to tapes of 911 calls and met with the 911 director.
The Community for Unified Fire and Ambulances Services expects to continue working to present a merger plan with additional emphasis on the rural areas outside of Madras, including 24/7 coverage in the Culver/Metolius area. Their initial plan involves combining budgets (more than $3 million combined), and pooling staff (21 full-time equivalents). The group believes ending duplicated services will save costs.
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