SHERIDAN — The six volunteer fire districts in Sheridan County consented to a fire service study initiated by Sheridan Fire-Rescue Chief Terry Lenhart, after slight coaxing from county commissioners and Lenhart.
“I didn’t think there was a lot of enthusiasm from the fire districts that first meeting,” councilor Thayer Shafer said.
“Somebody fanned the flames,” city administrator Mark Collins replied. Lenhart delayed the request for proposal to give the six volunteer fire districts more time to commit and invest in the study.
Shafer noted the benefit of waiting for the six helps in providing a more complete picture of the fire services in the entire county, not just within city limits.
“As they’re asking more questions and getting more input, they’re seeing more value in it just in being able to jointly acquire equipment, and those things are so expensive, especially for a small, volunteer agency,” Lenhart said.
The primary purpose for the study is to provide independent review of the services county-wide. An initial presentation and meeting of stakeholders consisting of governmental agencies, including Shafer, Mayor Roger Miller, city administrator Mark Collins, fire district representatives, Rocky Mountain Ambulance and SFRD personnel, established a set purpose for the study.
Lenhart said the study, initially suggested in SFRD’s contract negotiations with the city of Sheridan, will provide a total review of the system, including personal emergency medical services outside of RMA assists. As a result of the study, Lenhart expects a solid planning document that will help determine future infrastructure, equipment costs, facilities and examples of best practices.
“(We want to be) making sure we’re doing the right thing the right way as a professional organization or as a group of professional organizations,” Lenhart said.
Adding the six volunteer fire districts to the study will help create a comprehensive look at services as a whole.
“This will allow for an expanded scope of the study, which we think will give us a much broader-based product,” Lenhart said. “We want to look at the whole county, not just Sheridan city as an operational standalone.”
The city of Sheridan committed $20,000 to the study in its budget negotiations last summer. City officials reached out to Sheridan County and its commissioners seeking financial help from both the county and the fire districts. Renee Obermueller, Sheridan County’s administrative director, worked a $5,000 commitment to the study from of the county commissioners and helped initiate an ask from the fire districts for a $1,000 contribution each.
Feedback from volunteer districts already include focusing on recruitment and retention.
““They’re small agencies and small communities and it’s very important for them for their self-sustaining livelihoods to make sure they can bring volunteers in and keep them,” Lenhart said.
Following receipt of the final commitments from Story and Ranchester, an RFP will go out to the community, and the study will tentatively begin in March, with a final report ready by June 2018.