CUMBERLAND - A total of seven firms have submitted proposals for the job of consulting the town on a fire department merger study.
The bid proposals were opened Wednesday and will be reviewed by Mayor Daniel J. McKee, who will recommend one of the seven to the Town Council sometime next month.
Submitting bids were: Donald I. Jacobs Management Consulting Services of Holden, Mass., $8,750; East Bay Strategic Partners of East Providence, $178,000; Matrix Consulting Group of Andover, Mass., $23,900; McGrath Consulting of Wonder Lake, Ill., $41,290; Michael Dallessandro of Grand Island, N.Y., $38,550; Public Safety Solution of Chester, Md., $38,850; and System Planning Corporation of Arlington, Va., $34,128.
Back in February, the council approved a resolution authorizing McKee to send out requests for proposals for an outside consultant to help the town draft a comprehensive feasibility planning assessment for the purpose of consolidating the town's fire services as either an independent, municipal or regional department.
The action was taken two months after a voter mandate to consolidate the town's independent fire districts.
McKee told the council a couple of months ago that he wanted to get the process started as soon as possible because the town is now on a schedule to have certain tasks completed by a certain date as spelled out in the binding referendum approved by 80 percent of the voters going to the polls in November.
The assessment and study needs to be completed by June 30, 2011. The Town Council would then adopt an implementation plan and schedule by Dec. 31, 2011, and begin initial operations of a consolidated fire service a year later -- by Jan. 1, 2013.
Now that the bids for the outside consultant have been opened, McKee can begin the task of conducting interviews and ultimately recommend a candidate to the council, which would have final approval in the hiring of the consultant.
Right now, the town is broken down into four areas that have independent fire districts. Each fire district bills the residents and businesses for fire protection. The four districts are Cumberland Fire District, Valley Falls Fire District, North Cumberland Fire District and Cumberland Hill Fire District.
The town is also served by the Cumberland Rescue Service, which provides 911 emergency coverage for the town. The Cumberland Rescue Service currently runs two full-time paramedic level rescues and has 18 full-time employees that work on a rotating schedule.
There are more than 40 independent fire districts in 15 of the stateâ€™s 39 communities. In addition to Cumberland and Lincoln, there are districts in Burrillville, Glocester, Foster, Charlestown, Scituate, Coventry, West Greenwich, Hopkinton, Richmond, Westerly, South Kingstown, Exeter and East Greenwich.
A proposal that was studied this year by the Cumberland Charter Review Commission would have required the town to hire as many qualified firefighters of the four Cumberland fire districts as possible as members of a new single Cumberland Fire Department.
In the end, however, the Charter Review Commission voted not to recommend it to the Town Council. Instead the council agreed to present a fire services consolidation proposal to voters as a binding referendum on the November 2010 ballot.
A similar proposal went to voters more than 10 years ago as a non-binding referendum, and although it was supported at the polls, there was never any action taken.
Specifically, the binding question approved by voters on Nov. 2 empowers the Town Council to "implement improved fire services delivery in Cumberland through the implementation of a comprehensive feasibility planning assessment with input from all shareholders, service providers, personnel of the current four fire districts and members of the public leading to the establishment of a fire services delivery agency that could be an independent or a municipal, town or regional fire services agency."