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Herkimer County fire departments look into consolidation

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Herkimer County fire departments look into consolidation
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Throughout the state, fire departments are struggling to stay afloat. In municipalities across the Mohawk Valley, fire departments are looking at consolidation. Six Herkimer County departments are currently involved in a study. As our Cara Thomas tells us, they hope they'll figure out not only what's best for their departments, but also for the community.

HERKIMER COUNTY, N.Y. -- The process began more than two years ago when six Herkimer County fire departments began to take a hard look at their situation. With budgets being tight at the career departments and a shortage of volunteers at the others, fire chiefs say they knew something had to change.

East Herkimer Fire Chief Ben Keller said, "We formed a committee through the county fire advisory board to look into the topic and see if we could secure some funding to perform a survey on services provided in the Valley."

And they got it. The funding is money left over from a 2009 Homeland Security grant, which was given to the county's Emergency Services Department. The fire advisory committee has selected a consultant and the study has begun.

"We're hoping that the study will at least give us a good place to start when it comes to what we can do to, not necessarily save money, but to better utilize the resources that we have," said Keller.

Fire chiefs from East Herkimer and Frankfort say through the study's results, they hope to find ways to better work together, whether it be a consolidation of equipment and training or possibly sharing staff and becoming a larger fire district.

Fire chiefs say this is still a very preliminary stage in the consolidation process and no decision will be made until the study is completed, which should take about four months.

Keller said, "If we can get a head of the curve and study it from the perspective of the local fire service being the lead on this type of a study, in the long run it will be beneficial to where we land in the future."

Out of the six fire departments, two are career stations, three are volunteer and one is both. But officials say that shouldn't be a problem: They say they'll find ways to make it work.

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