Consolidation of Marion County Fire and Sheriff Deprtments Inches Closer
Tuesday night the Marion County Board of Commissioners appointed the members of a blue-ribbon task force that will come up with a plan to possibly consolidate the County's Fire and Sheriff Departments.
Sheriff Ed Dean chose Commissioner Jim Payton to head the task force, a move unanimously supported by the Commission.
Payton says it is still too early to have a set opinion about the possible move, but remains confident that the task force members can provide the County with an un-politicized report.
"I think we have to determine how compatible they are with one another," Payton told TV20 about the two departments.
"We have to determine if it's really in the public's interest to combine them. I really don't know, I have no pre-conceived notions about it," he said.
The Chief of Marion County's Fire Department, Stuart McElhaney, says consolidation has worked in the past.
"My first thought was, we just finished our second year of consolidated services with the ambulance service which was a very good thing for the citizens of Marion County, saved a lot of money," he said.
The task force also plans on using South Florida's Broward County as an example. They consolidated their Fire and Sheriff Departments in 2003.
The Executive Director of Broward Sheriff's Office Department of Fire Rescue, Chief Joseph Lello, told TV20 that the consolidation proved to be a success, improving response times and making the use of resources more efficient.
Members of the Marion County blue-ribbon task force are:
Douglas Cone, local business owner,Cone Distributing, appointed by Commissioner Mike Amsden.
Carl Crabtree, local resident, appointed by Commissioner Stan McClain.
Brian Cretul, Habitat of Humanity of Marion County board member and son of Florida House Speaker, Larry Cretul, appointed by Commissioner Charlie Stone.
Sam McConnel, local businessman, appointed by Commissioner Jim Payton.
Tim Petty, Ocala/ Marion County Tourism Development Council, appointed by Sheriff Ed Dean.
Chester Trow, local lawyer, appointed by Commission Chair, Barbara Fitos.
Non-voting members of the task force include Pat Gabriel, of the fire department's advisory committee and Reverend Stanley Jacobs.
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