SOUTHINGTON — Fire department officials want funding for a consultant to study fire service needs for the next 10 years.
The Board of Fire Commissioners is seeking $77,000 from town contingency funds to hire Emergency Services Consulting International to produce the master plan.
Fire Chief Richard Butler said the company is known for creating clear reports without the fire service jargon found in a 2013 study of the town’s fire department.
“It’ll provide a road map for the Southington Fire Department for the future, but that road map’s no good if the politicians don’t understand it and the public doesn’t understand it,” Butler said. “(ESCI) produces reports that the average person can read and understand.”
Planning for the future
Nathan Wilson, chairman of the fire board, said the consultants can appraise current performance and future needs.
“The big things they’ll be looking at is staffing, coverage. It’s going to look at the possibility of new stations, looking at how much time it takes to get to an incident,” Wilson said.
ESCI would also gather public input for a study that should take four to six months, Wilson said.
“It’s important for our lawmakers in Southington to see the importance, where we lack, where we excel,” Wilson said. “Southington provides a really good fire service. There are some areas I’m sure where we need to improve.”
Convincing town leaders, residents
In 2013, ICMA Center for Public Safety Management completed a study of Southington’s Fire Department that listed 30 recommendations. Many dealt with better integrating volunteers, communication and training. The town has career and volunteer firefighters.
Butler said even he struggles with the author’s intent. If town leaders are going to approve funding for expansion, Butler said they need to understand the needs.
As part of the study, ESCI will be available to meet with town leaders after the report is complete. That can help prevent “sticker shock” over cost, Butler said.
“This is a 10 year process. Not everything is going to happen overnight,” he said.
ESCI is the consulting firm of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. Butler said the group doesn’t have a bias towards career or volunteer firefighters.
Town Council support
The use of unspent town contingency money needs approval by the Board of Finance and the Town Council.
Victoria Triano, council chairwoman and a Republican, was in support of the study. Last year, the council voted to add two more career firefighters. Triano said a master plan would give councilors some guidance.
“We can’t just arbitrarily put firefighters on if we don’t know what the goal is. How many firefighters do we need?” she said.
An outside consultant also has an objective perspective, according to Triano.
“It takes all the politics and all the personal preference out of the equation,” she said.