former Local Government Policy Manager
DCED Governors Center for Local Government Services
Local governments in
The process of intergovernmental cooperation is not new to some local governments and some have decades of history working with their neighbors. It is most common in public works, purchasing, policing, and administration. However, intergovernmental cooperation is relatively rare regarding partnerships of emergency service organizations, such as volunteer fire and rescue companies. Even more rare are partnerships involving career fire departments.
That is why there is a compelling story to be told
surrounding the formal established partnership of two combination fire
departments in two different local governments. Springettsbury (a township
of the second class) and Spring
Garden (a township of the first class) Townships are located just east of
the City of
In 2002, the managers and a few elected officials from both
townships met with a representative from DCED to inquire if assistance was
available to investigate the feasibility of combining fire service operations
of both municipalities. The idea was to
determine if it was possible to combine similar yet different services into a
single organization to serve both townships. A strategy was developed to facilitate the creation of a partnership and
in December of 2002, a resolution was approved by both municipalities to
An Emergency Services Task Force was created consisting of elected representatives of both local governments, fire services officials, and most importantly, selected citizen representatives from both municipalities. This group consisted of 13 members and was charged with creating a combined fire service organization. The Task Force soon recognized the need for some professional assistance with their evaluation and engaged a consultant to assist their effort. The study was underwritten with a DCED shared services grant and proved to be beneficial to the entire process.
Throughout the long and complicated process of debate,
deliberation and decision-making, both municipal governments were openly
supportive and understanding of the needs of the fire services and kept
employees and members informed and engaged. The learning curve was steep for all involved, and the Task Force
correctly realized that this was an educational process for everyone involved.
The result of this effort is that today in Springettsbury
The newly appointed chief began duties on February 11,
2008. There are plans being developed
for a central station to house the organization to bring all assets
together. The career firefighters were
in favor of this effort because they saw this as an opportunity to be part of a
larger, more responsive and capable organization that can have a regional
application in the greater York suburban area. The volunteers were experiencing declining resources and saw this as a
way to enhance fire service capabilities for the region.
This was an ambitious, complicated and yet rewarding process for all involved. It also stands as a progressive and beneficial result for the entire region and is a model of intergovernmental cooperation. In addition to the Task Force, one of the other significant driving forces behind this success were the managers of both municipalities who orchestrated all of the detail work involved. In the words of the Springettsbury manager, it required “patience, patience, and evidence of monthly progress” to keep this effort on track.
In light of the obstacles that had to be overcome, this is
an extraordinary example of intergovernmental cooperation in