NAPLES — They don't want consolidation — administrative or otherwise — or to close fire stations.
They aren't looking to increase the tax rate or reduce pay and benefits.
Instead, a group of Collier County residents is hoping a proposal to create a cooperative administrative services organization will help Collier County's five independent fire districts streamline their administrative functions without changing what's done on the front lines.
"If you believe that economies of scale work, then by having an economy of scale of one organization doing payroll, one organization doing the budgeting, one organization doing the purchasing . . . then you can get more for your money," said Marvin Easton, one of the founders of Collier Fire Administrative Services, or CFAS.
Easton said the group started during the fall after North Naples fire Commissioner Jim Burke inquired if he'd be interested in looking at fire districts from an outside perspective. Easton connected with three other Collier residents — Joe Moreland, John Svirsky and Ken Ginsberg — and the four men began contacting fire districts to see if they'd be interested in participating in a study.
That study, which begins Monday, will look at a variety of administrative functions — from payroll to grant writing — and whether they can efficiently be outsourced to a cooperative administrative services company.
That company would be Collier Administrative Services. It would be owned by participating districts and governed by its own board of directors.
"It would effectively be an outsourcing organization owned by the participating fire districts that they would buy services from," Easton said. "They would own it, operate it and manage it . . . no one fire district would be running it, all of the fire districts that wanted to participate in it would run it. (The districts) would all remain independent, but they could save money and become more efficient."
One efficiency that could come about is through combining insurance policies. That isn't something that is an option now because all of the fire districts operate independently of each other, but Easton said it could be if they decide to join together through an umbrella organization like CFAS.
Easton said members of the group wanted buy-in from fire districts before they started the study, and all of the districts have said they would be interested in hearing what the study has to say.
"We in East Naples are willing to look at any options to continue providing services," said Kingman Schuldt, chief of East Naples Fire Control and Rescue District.
Officials with North Naples, Big Corkscrew Island and Immokalee fire districts echoed that sentiment, but were quick to point out the districts already work together to find efficiencies.
It's also something Immokalee and Big Corkscrew Island fire districts have been doing since August when Immokalee commissioners agreed Big Corkscrew Island's administrative team would act as Immokalee's administrative team to help save money.
Rita Greenberg, chief at both Big Corkscrew Island and Immokalee, said the CFAS presentation was "a little more extensive" than what's happening in eastern Collier County.
Still, Schuldt said fire districts already have many of the consolidated functions — such as interlocal agreements for maintenance and fleet mechanics — that CFAS is proposing.
"There might be a misunderstanding that we don't function together," North Naples Assistant Chief Becky Bronsdon said. "We have joint projects and joint arrangements . . . but I think our board is always open to looking at whether there is a more efficient way to do things."
Easton said the study will take several months to complete. Once it's completed, the group will return to the fire districts to make a presentation of its findings.
__ Connect with reporter Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster at www.naplesnews.com/staff/jenna-buzzacco.