A plan by state Rep. Julio Robaina would merge six fire departments -- Hialeah, Key Biscayne, Miami Beach, Coral Gables, Miami and Miami-Dade.
Lawmaker pushes merging Dade's city fire services
A state representative is challenging counties to save money by consolidating municipal fire departments.
Article Courtesy of The Miami Herald
BY CHARLES RABIN
Published Monday, June 4, 2007
State Rep. Julio Robaina has a plan that he says would save local taxpayers $50 million a year and turn Miami-Dade County's six fire departments into a single, lean, efficient unit.
Under Robaina's plan, if the fire departments agreed to consolidate, they would be exempt from budget cuts mandated by the property tax reform that lawmakers have pledged to deliver this month.
he intends to offer the plan as an amendment to any property tax reform bill that's voted on in Tallahassee.
The plan is bound to face opposition in Miami-Dade's municipal governments.
Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina -- no relation to the state lawmaker -- called it ``pandering to the fire union in Dade County.''
A study last summer showed Hialeah would save $2.8 million the first year it merged with Miami-Dade, but Mayor Robaina determined the savings weren't enough to dismantle the department, which costs more than $25 million a year to run. He predicted that in the long run, Hialeah taxpayers would have to pay more if they joined the Special Taxing District that currently funds Miami-Dade's Fire Rescue Department at about $400 million a year.
''Economically, they don't have a handle on it,'' he said.
Nonetheless, retired Hialeah Firefighters Union Chief Luis Espinosa said the city's department could stand to cut some costs to provide service and improve staffing. Hills, the county union chief, said that done correctly, creating a single fire department would be seamless. Nobody would notice the difference except for the firefighters.''
Coral Gables Fire Chief Rick Cook disagreed.
''I definitely think there is going to be a huge impact on public service,'' Cook said. ``But I don't think a regionalized fire department is something I see coming out of this.''
Carlos Gimenez, a county commissioner who was the fire chief and then manager of the city of Miami, said some facets of consolidation -- like a single radio frequency and eliminating redundancy issues -- are viable. But he doesn't believe there's a lot of support for consolidation.
''Some cities just want to have control of a department. What at least this does is it puts some things on the table and creates a framework,'' he said.