Defined as a “study session,” Jackson County Fire District 3 Board’s July 16 special meeting requested input from personnel, and community members. Its stated purpose—to share discussions regarding cooperative services with Medford and provide opportunity for Board Members to converse openly regarding the issue. No decisions would be made during this Session.
County Commissioner Doug Breidenthal had initiated the process a few months ago by requesting a conversation regarding Medford FD’s discussing feasibility of sharing services. Jack Snook, former JC FD3 employee, now heading Emergency Services Consulting, Inc. (EMCI) facilitated agreements to provide these communication opportunities for both Medford and FD3.
Careful to avoid the word “merger,” Snook used terms such as “cooperating,” and “sharing.” He stressed the need to communicate, and shun rumor mills. “If we want to give the joint effort a name, he said, “we can call it a ‘Fire Authority.’”
He compared the concept to a personal relationship. “You start by dating; then you ‘go steady.’ Next you get engaged, and marry. There’s a chance it won’t work out, and you get divorced,” he said. “Twenty-two years ago co-op service was new territory. Now we see many co-op services that have worked out well in other locations.”
Administrators, fire fighters, trainees, volunteers, other staff members, and visitors addressing the Board, packed the Agate Rd. building’s conference room to voice varied sentiments. A female staff member worried that a more experienced worker might be duplicating her job, and possibly doing it better.
FD 3’s Public Information Officer, Don Hickman questioned whether co-op services would cause any employees to lose their livelihoods.
“If we share resources, we’ll see more stability in employment,” replied Board Member, Colin Fagan.
“Making sure as managers we’re kept informed is a great step in the right direction,” stated Battalion Chief Mitchell.
Fire Chief Dan Petersen addressed the fact that In the last twelve months District 3 has seen an 11% increase in its fire call volume. “At 11% a year, what’s it going to be like in three more years? By working and training together, we’ve raised our ceiling. All this takes a lot of time. We need a transitory process if it’s the right thing to do.”
Admin. Assistant Tamera Nunez commented that she thought the co-op would be a great step forward.
A volunteer fire-fighter expressed concerns about volunteer programs’ getting lost in the process of a co-op with Medford. “We’re all volunteers ourselves,” replied Board President Jim Gillin. “That type of program certainly receives our respect and appreciation.”
Cindy Hauser, the Board’s lone female member, noted a comparison with the struggles Rogue Community College endured when it wanted to expand into Jackson County. “For years Josephine County resisted. Then some in Jackson County fought it. But not everyone can go to a four-year college; RCC was needed in Jackson County. Finally in 1997 it went through, and look at how much good it’s done.”
“I’ve never been more impressed with a group,” Snook commented at the meeting’s conclusion.
“We have options,” said Gillin. Thursday we’ll have our regular Board Meeting, where we hope to take the next step.”