Editorial: Willing partnerships paved way to merger of Verde fire agencies

If there is anything to be learned about the consolidation of various fire departments in the Verde Valley as it applies to school district consolidation, it’s obviously a lot easier to accomplish when you have willing partners.

Tuesday will see a marathon of meetings between the Camp Verde and Montezuma-Rimrock fire districts and the Copper Canyon Fire and Medical Authority to legally merge the three entities into one.

If successful, the Camp Verde/Montezuma-Rimrock merger will follow similar fire agency mergers involving the former Cornville-Page Springs and Verde Rural fire districts as well as the marriage between the Clarkdale and Verde Valley Fire Districts.

Those mergers were prompted, in part, to create more fiscally efficient fire protection agencies.

We’ve heard the same reasoning to justify the need to consolidate school districts in the Upper Verde. We’ve likewise heard that there are no cost benefits, but, rather, cost consequences, in consolidating the Mingus and Cottonwood-Oak Creek school districts.

Cost-benefit analysis has never been a sticking point in discussions about merging local fire departments. It’s been a given. Some say a no-brainer.

That’s the result you get when all involved are willing partners. Everyone found a way to get through the process and play nice at the same time.

In many ways, local fire departments were paving the way to agency consolidations years before such mergers were even envisioned. Long-standing automatic aid agreements between all the fire agencies in the Verde Valley created a realization that multiple agencies -- when forced into action cooperatively -- actually could perform professionally as a single unit.

The mutual aid agreements required a uniform training program for local fire agencies, and an agreed-upon plan of action when circumstances dictated mutual agency response to an emergency situation. The end result was professionals acting with the utmost professionalism when needed most.

The same cannot be said of the various efforts to merge our school systems. Various shared services models have come and gone. Various attempts to merge our schools into a unified district have failed, and, in trying, have done nothing but create considerable ill will in the community.

So for those looking for comparisons between the successful fire district mergers we’ve seen in the Verde Valley with the consolidation of school districts, it’s important to remember that we are dealing with a completely different dynamic and commitment to professionalism.

It’s more easily accomplished when you have willing partners.

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