A combined Charlottesville and Albemarle County fire department could save taxpayers in both places hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. That potential cost savings is driving a new conversation about merging the two.
Talk is one thing and doing, quite another. It is going to take a lot of political will on both sides to make a merge happen, but there is a new, and well connected, push for it.
"We should consolidate," stated Charlottesville City Councilor David Brown. "Look at seriously consolidating our fire services."
There is new-found momentum to consolidate the work that both Charlottesville and Albemarle firefighters do. A meeting set for June 18 could propel the idea forward. Representatives from both Charlottesville and Albemarle County will be at the table to talk about how they could combine fire power.
"Hopefully there is some specific direction on what do we need to do to lay the groundwork to make this a reality," Brown said.
"The part that will work for them and the part that will work for Albemarle County has got to be there," explained Albemarle Supervisor Rodney Thomas. "It just can't be a one way street."
Albemarle is spending $575,000 in the coming year on fire department administration costs. Charlottesville will spend about $429,000 for the same thing and, as both governments tighten their budgets, merging departments could save big bucks.
"I'm open minded," Thomas stated. "I'm ready to discuss any good ideas that anybody comes up with that will work for both parties."
Three years ago a consultant said that consolidation would not be a good idea. Both the city and county funded that study. Now those at the table will review the cons in that report to see what they can overcome.
"I think you need to put the worst part of it out on the table and figure out how it will work," said Thomas.
Other ideas include purchasing equipment together to save money and expanding on the current fire services agreement between the city and county.