No need for SKFR to hurry into a bad merger

As has been our inclination all along, we have no problem in theory with the idea of the South Kitsap Fire & Rescue District consolidating with Central Kitsap and Bremerton districts — so long as the move makes sense.

To be more specific, it has to make economic sense for the districts, and by extension, the taxpayers who pay their bills.

With that in mind, we were not at all discouraged to hear last week that the merger talks have been put on hold at least temporarily because, according to SKFR Commissioner Dusty Wiley, “...some of the (ideas) just weren’t penciling out.”

Wiley explained that the main stumbling block was figuring out how to merge three separate funding mechanisms into one policy that worked for residents of each distinct community.

“With the concerns about the economy and overall funding issues,” added SKFR Deputy Chief Steve Wright, “the committee passed a motion to not have the issue on the ballot this November.”

Fair enough.

In our mind, the goal of the merger was always to eliminate the overlap of services and enjoy economies of scale that would reduce operating costs. But if the result was going to be a larger, more difficult to manage mega-district that placed an unequal tax burden on one of the participating districts, we can be patient about getting started with it — especially since it seems that South Kitsap too often comes out on the short end of any partnership involving its neighbors to the north.

“This is not about saving money,” said SKFR Chief Wayne Senter. “This is about reallocating funds and resources to provide better services to our citizens more efficiently.”

That’s also fair.

It was a given that any consolidation couldn’t result in a reduction of services just to save money. At the same time, in this day and age, let’s not downplay the importance of saving a few bucks.

What we appreciate is that those doing the negotiating recognized ahead of time the deal wasn’t working and opted to back away from the game instead of playing out a bad hand.

If only it happened that way more often in the public sector.

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