Now one year into its joint fire agreement with the City of Northville, Plymouth city officials are calling the merger an "incredible move."
The combined operation, which replaced Plymouth's existing partnership with Plymouth Township, launched on Jan. 1, 2012 with hopes of saving Plymouth money without sacrificing service. The move eliminated full-time firefighting crews in favor of a paid on-call system and the addition of a new downtown fire station.
“I think the fire department consolidation was the boldest and most effective thing that we’ve done in the past 15 years,” Plymouth Mayor Dan Dwyer said in a news release. “So far, it’s been absolutely outstanding for our city. It’s more effective. We have more firefighters to serve our residents, and we save money. You can’t get any better than that. It’s been an incredible move for our city.”
The City of Plymouth also has a no-cost paramedic ambulance agreement with Huron Valley Ambulance (HVA) to supply emergency services in the city.
Response times on par with previous model
Plymouth officials report service levels remaining consistent and response times that are within national guidelines, according to the news release. The average response time for high-priority Advanced Life Support calls for service is over one minute, 50 seconds better than the city’s previous model, the news release indicated.
The joint operation has a response time for Paramedic Advanced Life Support ambulances of approximately five minutes from the time the call is received in the dispatch center to the arrival of the paramedic ambulance, the news release indicated. In addition, HVA paramedics are backed up and assisted by Northville firefighters who respond from the Plymouth City Hall Station.
The numbers are in line with figures reported in July 2012, at the six-month mark of the combined services.
All City of Plymouth Police Officers now carry automatic external defibrillators in their vehicles, Sincock indicated.
While Sincock admits that the average response time of 8 minutes for the joint fire operations Plymouth Fire Station is about 42 seconds longer than under the previous average, he claims the department is better-staffed when arriving to the scene of an emergency.
Sincock said in the news release that the crews responding from the City Hall Station bring a fully staffed fire apparatus. Sincock indicated during a fire call or fire alarm call, the first arriving fire engine has five or six personnel who can begin an immediate attack of a fire. Sincock said additional units quickly follow, with as many as 20–25 firefighters at a fire scene, with additional staff at the station prepared for a second run.
The Northville City Fire Department (NCFD) provides the City of Plymouth with fire suppression and basic life support (BLS) emergency medical services by operating three on-call stations—one in Northville and two in Plymouth. Advanced Life Support Ambulance Service is provided in Plymouth, through a no-cost partnership with Huron Valley Ambulance.
A Fire Advisory Board, consisting of elected and appointed officials from both cities, provides input into the operation of the department, Sincock indicated. The five-member Northville City Council has full decision-making authority. The seven-member Plymouth City Commission is Northville’s “customer,” and provides feedback, requests, input and suggestions on a regular basis.
“We are always looking at alternative service delivery models,” Sincock said in the news release. “That’s part of our culture. Cities need to explore more cost-effective ways to deliver government services to our residents.”
A look at the numbers
Plymouth’s agreement with Northville is based on paying a percentage of the “on-call” runs. According to Sincock, early estimates indicate Plymouth will save taxpayers more than $300,000 per year. Plymouth is currently paying approximately $47,000 a month, or $564,000 per year, to the City of Northville. By comparison, the Plymouth Township contract had cost city taxpayers $1 million per year.
The City of Plymouth encompasses 2.27 square miles, while Northville includes two square miles. Plymouth’s population is just over 9,000. Northville has just fewer than 6,000 residents.
City manager: Communities must embrace shared services
Sincock says municipalities interested in shared-services models must embrace the concept, without focusing on individual and political agendas.
“You have to have the culture to make something like this happen,’ Sincock said in the news release. “We’ve been very careful about developing that culture over the years.”
The department, meanwhile, has been busy boosting awareness of the combined department, handing out firefighter hats and offering truck tours to children at downtown Plymouth events.
"(The) firefighters are very community oriented, and they enjoy connecting to the people in our community," Dwyer said. "Our residents are seeing a lot of community involvement. Technically, they are City of Northville employees, but they’re on our team.”
How has the new combined service model worked for you? Are you happy with the results? Let us know in the comments.