Brett Blume (@brettblumekmox)

RICHMOND HEIGHTS, Mo. (KMOX) – Don’t call it a “merger,” but officials in five St. Louis County communities are continuing to talk about the idea of bringing together the administrative responsibilities of their respective fire departments under a single umbrella.

“I want to put this up front that it has nothing to do with the combining of fire departments,” said Richmond Heights Mayor Jim Thomson. “It’s only the administrative staff, and that’s really a misnomer because once you’re a fireman you’re always a fireman.”

So if it’s not a merger, what’s the advantage of pursuing this plan?

“Efficiency and effectiveness of service,” Thomson answered. “We can combine training so everybody’s on the same page on the administrative end. We’ll have battalion chiefs who will be in charge with they arrive at a scene.”

It’s an idea that’s been bandied about for the better part of a year, but some remain unconvinced that this is the way to go.

That includes Richmond Heights firefighter Luke Van Cleeve, who spoke during the public hearing.

“I come before you on behalf of our firefighters in Richmond Heights respectfully asking you to vote ‘No’ on continuing the discussions regarding this matter,” he said. “We believe that a safety concern comes from the idea of, through attrition, not filling voided positions and passing those duties on to other individuals.”

Also raising questions about the idea of combining resources was Richmond Heights resident Peggy Tyrell.

“I believe if we merge the five fire departments, it would be the beginning of other mergers,” Tyrell explained. “Soon would follow the merger of every facet of municipal functions from infrastructure to parks and recreation and library systems.”

She called for the matter to be the subject of a much larger public hearing and then placed on the ballot for a binding vote.

The public hearing Monday night was considered a first reading and will be taken up again during the August meeting of the Richmond Heights City Council.

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