News Flash

General

Posted on: February 10, 2021

Potential Fire Department Merger FAQs

merger2

We want to make you aware of a unique proposal that will soon go before the respective Councils of the Town of Westlake and the City of Keller for consideration.  The proposal would be for a consolidation of the Keller and Westlake Fire Departments, an effort that would better serve both communities.  For more information about the proposal, please see below for a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
  • Why join forces? Our two communities have a long history of working together. We have shared police services for the last 19 years, which includes partnerships in 911 dispatch, animal services, and detention operations. We also work together through Fire Department mutual aid agreements and are both members of the Northeast Fire Department Association. While the new agreement being explored would be different from our existing partnership efforts, the strong relationships between the two cities and their leaders give us confidence heading into this feasibility study.
  • Why do this now? With continued growth particularly along our communities' highway corridors and the timing of Keller Fire Chief David Jones' retirement, we believe exploring a shared-resources model now may best prepare us for the future.
  • What will be the immediate impact? While the feasibility study is expected to take 12-18 months, residents will see some immediate impacts. These will include Keller battalion chiefs running major incidents in Westlake, and Westlake Fire-EMS Chief Richard Whitten serving as Keller's interim fire chief. We also anticipate some early adjustments in our EMS calls as the two communities begin sharing their combined three ambulance crews.
  • Will Westlake be outsourcing fire and emergency services to Keller? No. This is not an outsourcing or contracted relationship like the one that exists for police services. The potential partnership between the two communities on fire services would be a consolidated effort with oversight by both localities.
  • Is it common for two municipalities to join forces like this? Yes, it is becoming more and more common around the country as departments see the instant success being achieved by others who have merged.
  • How large are the two departments now? Keller Fire-Rescue has 57 employees when fully staffed operating out of three stations. Westlake Fire-EMS is fully staffed at 18 employees operating out of one station.
  • Would a consolidated department have a new name? Yes. As part of this process, our fire professionals would craft a new, shared identity and culture representing their expanded team. We anticipate that will result in selecting a single, unified department name if the merger moves forward.
  • How will this impact our current relationships with our firefighters? Firefighters in both communities have invested many years in developing relationships with our resident and business communities. That high level of service, professionalism, and warmth you're used to seeing from our firefighters will be the same, though residents in both municipalities may begin to see some new faces in addition to the firefighters they already know and love.    
  • How does this impact the 4 existing fire stations, including Westlake's new iconic facility? Outside of the potential for eventual name and logo changes, the existing stations would not be impacted. Westlake's new station would remain a proud landmark of the Town for its residents.
  • How will the feasibility study work? We believe this will be a 12 to 18-month process. Committees with representatives from both communities will be formed to work through a wide variety of considerations, and residents will have the opportunity to engage in the process along the way. We want to make sure our residents, fire department professionals, and council members in both municipalities have all the information they need before making a final decision about the consolidation. Ultimately, both councils will consider the pros and cons, then decide whether to move forward.
  • Is this change based on financial issues? No. While we anticipate that a consolidated department would provide for some natural financial and organizational economies of scale long term, this process is not being approached as a cost-cutting measure. We aren't scaling back our services or letting any of our current staff go. We believe this process could make our overall department bigger and better than ever.
  • What if the councils decide not to move forward with a merged department? That's certainly a possibility. If that were to occur, each department would continue to serve their own community in the same way they do now. Sharing of staff or equipment that began during the interim period would also likely end.
  • What's the bottom line? This exploratory process is all about sustainability, both fiscal and organizational. The fire-rescue profession is changing, and we believe departments that keep up with those changes and think ahead will have a competitive edge and better outcomes. Both municipalities must continue to deliver a high level of care to our residents and businesses, and we feel this may be the best way long term to deliver the services our communities deserve and have come to expect.

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