The Edmond Sun
Fire Department planners are balancing the realities of the city’s budget environment with the need to continue the quality service expected by patrons.
Edmond Fire Chief Jake Rhoades said the agency’s updated five-year strategic plan is at the print shop and should be available sometime during the next two to three weeks. The update occurred following the hiring of Rhoades last year.
Following the Great Recession of 2007, which has been called the worst economic slowdown since the Great Depression of the 1930s, local officials used the term “new normal” to describe having fewer taxpayer dollars to spend on services.
However, the picture has brightened somewhat. Earlier this month, Finance Director Russ VanderHamm recommended that the City Council budget for a 6 percent sales tax growth for fiscal year 2013-14 with 5 percent budgets to follow for the next four years.
In 2012, the council budgeted for a 3 percent rise in sales tax revenue and ended up seeing 6.18 percent growth for the fiscal year.
Rhoades said the Fire Department’s fiscal approach is to do what is right for the community while remaining as fiscally efficient as possible.
“Oftentimes, departments simply buy the lowest price piece of equipment without regard to maintenance or other associated costs,” Rhoades said. “We realize the importance of doing things effectively and efficiently at the same time and making the right purchases is critical.”
In January, the Fire Department began the process of updating its five-year strategic plan. Rhoades said the plan will drive fire service operations and establish a future course of action.
About 60 members of the community, representing a variety of interests, participated in session during which they provided feedback. Then members of the Fire Department provided feedback.
Participants evaluated Edmond Fire Department services related to fire suppression, fire prevention, public education, fire investigation, basic rescue and technical (vehicle extrication; radio tower rescue; construction trench collapse), hazardous materials mitigation, emergency medical services (initial advanced life support) and response to any type of natural or man-made disasters that may occur in the community (tornadic activity, etc.).
They also provided information about prioritization of services and were given an opportunity to list the expectations they have for the Fire Department, concerns, positive feedback and general remarks.
Rhoades said the input from stakeholders has been tremendous and will be instrumental in the success of the five-year strategic plan.
“Since we put so much emphasis on community-driven input, we know that we are focusing on the needs of the community as the foundation for our plan and our guys did a great job of recognizing that input as we developed the strategic plan,” Rhoades said.
Fire Maj. Bill Brown said personnel from across the department met for three days with a facilitator who led the session with members of the community. Personnel revised goals and objectives and sent the draft back to a focus group.
Brown said the process has given the department a chance for introspection regarding services and it will enable the agency to better serve the community.
Rhoades said he is excited about simple progress and working toward common goals of improvement. An already top-notch department is going to become even better through this process combined with and organizational analysis and verified through accreditation, Rhoades said.
Citizens provide a great deal of support for the Fire Department, which gives much in return.
In 2010, serving an ever-growing city with a population of 83,000 (July 2011 U.S. Census Bureau), the Fire Department operated a 24-hour, seven day per week service with a budget of $16.6 million for operating and capital expenses, according to that year’s annual report. The average response time for emergency alarms was 5:41.
That year, the agency conducted 72 fire scene investigations (there were five civilian fire injuries and one civilian suicide by fire), conducted building and plat reviews, fire safety inspections and corrected code violations.
That year, the agency logged more than 36,000 hours of training in fire suppression, CPR re-certifications, emergency medical care, self-contained breathing apparatus re-certifications, hazardous materials technician re-certifications, technical rescue, physical fitness training, construction updates and pre-fire plans.
Personnel also conducted lectures, apparatus demonstrations, fire station tours, fire drills, safety fairs, fire prevention month activities and other educational programs for a total of 20,67 citizen contacts.
Through March 31, 2012, the sales tax rate in Edmond was 7.75 percent. Of that, 4.5 percent goes to the state. The city receives 3.25 percent, used for the general fund, public safety, parks and capital improvements. Of that, 1/4 cent goes to the Fire Department.
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