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Consolidation consideration for Bradenton

Welcome to the City of Bradenton Central Fire Station, the sign reads as you enter the parking lot.

Might it be changed one day to: Manatee County Central Fire Station?

Bradenton City Councilman Gene Gallo, for whom the building is dedicated, probably says perish the thought.

Yet given the bleak city budget discussion Wednesday, it’s something to contemplate.

Gallo said the work session was as gloomy as he can recall in 50 years with the city, including 31 with the fire department.

Yet when Councilman Pat Roff spoke of examining a special assessment for fire department services, the former Bradenton fire chief said no.

“When people move into a municipality, they expect specific services — fire, police and water,” Gallo said. “If there’s a need to generate revenue, we need to have the guts to do what’s necessary.”

It made me think of a hot button word:

Consolidation.

It’s not the immediate solution to what ails the City of Bradenton, but it is a consideration long term.

Bradenton is one of nine fire districts in the county.

Do we need that many?

Back in January state Sen. Mike Bennett promoted consolidation of public services countywide — police and fire — as a way for government to save money.

Mayor Wayne Poston responded by telling his Tallahassee ally to stick to state business and leave local affairs to local elected officials.

The consolidation conversation isn’t going away.

Consolidated county fire systems exist in Hillsborough, Sarasota and Charlotte counties, as well as Broward, Orange, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade.

Some work better than others at improving level of service and reducing cost.

Manatee’s fire fighting community has debated consolidation for years.

Opponents cite disparities in salaries, benefits and services.

People say taxes go up, but services won’t increase.

Proponents cite how some merged departments already collectively buy equipment and train.

That would address some of Bradenton’s present firefighting problem.

Just saying.

Mannix About Manatee, by columnist Vin Mannix, is about people and issues in Manatee County. Please call Vin Mannix at 745-7055, write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, FL 34206 or e-mail him at vmannix@bradenton.com. Please include a phone number for verification purposes.

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