Four Northwest Broward cities take first steps toward collaboration

There might be a combined effort for fire rescue in Coconut Creek, Coral Springs, Margate and Parkland’s future – but it’s too soon to tell. However, the first step was taken in getting the cities thinking about it.

Commissioners from the four cities met last week to find out which cities might be interested in a joint venture between their fire departments for rescue services. They agreed to go back to their individual cities and, within roughly 30 days, vote on sending their respective city managers to a meeting to gather information on the costs of an independent study. The study would look at if it would be realistic to combine the departments, and how the cities could do it while increasing benefit to their residents.

“I think that we did what we wanted to accomplish, which was to get the four cities together to see if we wanted to do this at all,” Margate Commissioner Lesa Peerman said. “We want to get on the same page and figure out a way to do something together. The fact that you had four cities sitting together discussing something is huge. Everyone was interested in finding out more information. If they weren’t interested, we would have said thanks for coming and have a good night.”

Some sort of fire service agreement between the four cities has been talked about for quite awhile, according to Coconut Creek Commissioner Becky Tooley, and it will probably take a bit longer – if it happens at all. But Tooley is glad the cities can talk about it on their own terms, and not through a local bill proposed earlier in the year that would have created a Northwest Broward Independent Fire District.

“This is going to take awhile, but it’s for our resident’s safety,” Tooley said. “If we all can get together that will be great, but if not, that will be OK too. The important thing to me is the funding. When the district [fire] bill went up [to the legislature] it wasn’t fair. But I think we can sit down and get everything worked out and I think it’s well worth the cost.”

While the four cities agreed to take the next step together, Coral Springs Mayor Roy Gold wasn’t as enthusiastic about the idea of a combined fire department like some of his colleagues.

“The most important thing to me as a representative of my citizens in Coral Springs is their safety and providing the services that they need,” Gold said. “I’m not ready to sign onto anything except for increasing the safety of the lives in my city and if it works that the four cities can work together that would be great. But I don’t want to sacrifice service.”

Currently, Coconut Creek contracts with Margate for fire service, Parkland contracts with Coral Springs, and they share various training services. Margate Fire Chief Tony Stravino wants to take the sharing to the next level.

“We’ve reached as far as we can with free sharing and we’re at the point now where some stuff may cost money, which needs political direction,” Stravino said. “That was the first time in 35 years [all four cities] sat in a room to discuss fire and rescue concepts and the possibility of shared resources. Based on the economy, this is a good time to look at it through neutral eyes to see how we can do it. If it’s your son or daughter at [the] bottom of [a] pool you don’t care who’s coming, you just want the best help possible.”

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