Topeka contracts experts to inform fire decisions

TOPEKA (KSNT) – Topeka contracts experts to inform fire decisions the City of Topeka is calling on national experts to help inform its decisions that they say will shape the future of the Topeka Fire Department.

The City has hired Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Safety Management, LLC, for $14,200 to perform a verification and update of the 2014 resource allocation study. Its scope of work also will include reviewing current fire department organizational structure and practices and establishing a benchmark assessment of the Topeka Fire Department to national and industrywide best practices.

CPSM is internationally recognized for its public safety and technical assistance services. It has assigned three subject matter experts with decades of experience in public safety management.

“This is not another study,” Topeka city manager Jim Colson said of the verification report.

“The 2014 resource allocation study was intended to be a foundation upon which we based further discussion and review. This is the next phase of that process.”

The City also has hired Wilsonville, Ore.-based Emergency Services Consulting International for $14,638 to conduct an update to the 2006 Deployment Study, with particular emphasis to station location and distribution of fire services. The scope of its work will include a demand study, a distribution study, a reliability study and a summary of performance.

“An updated GIS study is designed to factor in current community risk, while taking into consideration future growth and possible efficiencies, which could be realized by station locations and companies,” said Fire Chief Greg Bailey. “Such information is essential to providing sound recommendations and decision-making.”

The city manager will absorb the cost of the first study into his budget, while the fire department will absorb the latter.

The City anticipates implementing recommendations from the reports in the 2017 budget. The contract to analyze the resource allocation study requires the report be finished within the next eight months, while the contract to update the 2006 study requires the report to be finished by Aug. 31 of this year.

“We want to ensure we have the most professionally run fire department that is reflecting the best practices in the industry, and we want to put the policy making body in the best position to make the most informed decision possible,” Colson said. “A lot of these decisions started 145 years ago. We won’t and can’t have the fix today. But we will take a measured, strategic approach to update our fire system in accordance with comparable statistics, industry standards and, ultimately, what’s in the best interest of Topeka residents. We want to make the best decision for the City of Topeka, but to do that, we need the best information. These reports will help us get there.”

The 2006 deployment study cost $71,252 and was conducted by the same firm handling its update. The 2014 resource allocation study was released July 1 and cost the city $14,697.90. The City commissioned consultants Arnold Gordon and Leo Hafner to perform the work.

“Having begun the discussion for the Resource Allocation Study performed by local consultant, Arnold Gordon, and former Post Audit budget analyst, Leo Hafner, I have remained insistent that we utilize the information gleaned from that report,” said Councilwoman Elaine Schwartz. “I have confidence that this is a step forward as was suggested by them to begin determining where we can make the Fire Department more efficient while ensuring Topeka citizens are safe. I have been assured that the study won’t dispel the finding of last year’s report, but, will ascertain national best practices we can utilize to change the Department for the better.”

The resource allocation study update will focus only on the fire department. The police department already is implementing some of the recommendations from the resource allocation study, and the city hasn’t yet determined if it will request a verification of this portion of the study.

A compensation study within the Water Pollution Control division, which is where the public works portion of the resource allocation study will start, will be underway soon. The City’s Human Resource Department will conduct the internal portion of the review, which will compare WPC wages to similar positions within other City departments. The second aspect of the comparison study, which will benchmark WPC employees against other cities, will follow.

 

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