Cooperative Services Study

Also in 2015, Forest Grove Fire and Rescue joined our neighbors in Cornelius, Gaston, and Banks, for a comprehensive study of our services. The firm, Emergency Services Consulting International reviewed all of the currently independent fire departments with the purpose of identifying opportunities for cooperation and collaboration that would enhance our ability to serve western Washington County.

A short summary of the findings of this study are as follows:

Summary

All six agencies are committed to the service they provide to their customers and citizens. In brief, ESCI finds:

  • All six agencies are interdependent, depending upon each other and other neighbors for mutual aid and automatic aid assistance during emergency incidents.
  • Five of the six participating agencies are already participating in regional IGA's for fire chief and administrative services.
  • Each agency values customer service and is proud of its community, working hard to care for it.
  • Each agency strives to meet the expectations of its customers to assure that they provide acceptable levels of service to their communities.
  • Each agency would benefit from additional regional cooperative measures. Combining efforts in some manner with the other agencies can enhance many of the identified improvements in this report.
  • Cultural differences exist; however, these organizations demonstrate more similarity than differences from a cultural standpoint.
  • Communication among agencies is effective, largely as a result of the close collaboration on numerous administrative and operational initiatives.
  • Multiple cooperative service options are feasible. These undertakings can be accomplished while the organizations remain separate from a governance standpoint and even greater opportunities may be realized through additional and more formal initiatives.
  • Combining all six agencies in a number of ways is feasible
  • Policymakers should adopt a plan, similar to the one outlined in this report, to evaluate each of the recommendations contained herein, aligning the processes, services, and operations of the agencies where possible.

Findings & Recommendations

Given the analysis in this study and the findings above, ESCI developed the following recommendations:

  • Regardless of future efforts to more formally combine the organizations, it is recommended that the six agencies, at a minimum, evaluate and implement as many of the identified functional strategies as are found to be applicable.
  • A two-phase process of integration is recommended.
    1. Phase one would be an enhanced intergovernmental agreement for the fire chief and administrative services among all six agencies. Note: As of May 1, 2015 five of the six participating agencies are contracting for fire chief services under an established IGA.
    2. Phase two would be a more formal cooperative service model through a fully integrated Fire Authority IGA, a fire district merger or consolidation into a new fire district.
  • Discussions should be held with the agencies participating in the IGA and Banks Fire District Number 13 about the potential of their participation in additional cooperative service efforts and which cooperative service options create the greatest opportunity for inclusion of all six participating agencies.

To read the entire study, see the Cooperative Services Study Final Report (PDF).