Editorial: Fire merger talks on hold

August 7, 2013 

Negotiations break down all the time. It happens in high-profile sports. It happens in closed-door boardroom meetings among Fortune 500 executives.

And, now it has happened with the town of Knightdale, the Eastern Wake Fire and Rescue and Wake County.

News reports have detailed the county’s desire to exit from the fire department business and the county’s subsequent overture to the town of Knightdale about taking in the territory covered by the Eastern Wake Fire and Rescue Department.

East Wake Fire and Rescue, which has operated as an autonomous, private entity throughout its existence, now finds itself beholden to the county for the money it needs to operate and it faced what it considered to be a highly unacceptable offer from the town of Knightdale to execute a merger.

And, so they walked away from the negotiations. But East Wake Fire and Rescue is holding the short end of the straw as we see it. The entity that pays for its operations (Wake County) doesn’t want to pay any more. The likelihood that the department could raise its own money elsewhere is slim because we’re talking about millions of dollars each year. And the town of Knightdale, quite frankly, doesn’t have much incentive to take on the additional expense of an operation that doesn’t serve the town directly.

With all those factors in mind, the leadership at East Wake Fire and Rescue would be well advised to return to the negotiating table – not for the purpose of rolling over and taking whatever crumbs are offered – and working to get as good a deal as it can. Of paramount importance to the department’s leadership, should be the preservation of all the paid jobs it currently has. The department should work to protect those men and women who have served the department well.

It’s hard to do that when you’re not at the bargaining table.

There is no timetable for a resolution to this matter, but it stands to reason that by this time next year, the county’s budget will not include money to keep the department afloat.

Before too much more time passes by, all parties need to strike the best deal they can.

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