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Sandy, West Valley City may create fire agency

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Sandy and West Valley fire departments may be teaming up to cut costs for cities not included in Salt Lake County's Unified Fire Authority.

The proposed effort would consolidate training, equipment purchases and specialized response teams for the cities as part of the Metropolitan Fire Agency. The cooperative fire department agreement could also mean lower insurance costs for residents.

Sandy city leaders will decide tonight whether to create an agreement with West Valley to explore the potential savings of creating the agency.

Although Sandy and West Valley officials are leading the charge for a collaborative effort, Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan said several other cities like South Salt Lake have expressed interest in joining the agency.

The key difference, Dolan added, between the Unified Fire Authority and the Metropolitan Fire Agency is that cities within the proposed agency would maintain local control over fire stations and personnel.

"We can create this umbrella group but still have our own departments and our own services," he said.

West Valley Fire Chief Van Summers said keeping local authority makes the agency a more attractive option than joining the Unified Fire Authority, which is a special district combining the fire departments of Alta, Draper, Herriman, Taylorsville, Salt Lake County, Riverton and Holladay.

"These services are important enough that they need to be controlled locally," Summers said. "But we're going another step and creating this legal entity to be more efficient and control costs."

The greatest advantage to combining fire department operations is that the cities will not duplicate special response teams like bomb squads or a hazardous materials team, Sandy Fire Chief Don Chase said. Instead, each city will be responsible for a special response unit for all agency members.

"It's just not being redundant," Chase said. "The city would remain autonomous while getting all the benefits of a special service district."

E-mail: estewart@desnews.com