(Editor’s note: This is the second story in a consecutive series about items discussed Tuesday at an intergovernmental meeting of Richmond, Berea and Madison County.)

The cost of providing fire protection to all citizens in Richmond is a costly one, consuming 26 percent of the city’s annual budget, according to Mayor Jim Barnes.

The topic was among many discussed Tuesday at Berea City Hall during an intergovernmental meeting including Berea, Richmond and Madison County.

The topic of decreasing the number of fire stations in Richmond is not new to Barnes, who suggested the idea about two months ago to much criticism.

“I do think we have some duplication (of fire services),” Barnes said. “We have four fire departments within a half miles of each other. That is a very expensive duplication.”

Barnes suggested the three governments meet to look at a map of the county and do a redistricting of fire service areas.

“If we look at those demographics, maybe instead of four, we could have two,” he said. “I think it’s something we should have looked at 10 years ago.”

The “expensive duplication” is not going to get any cheaper, according to Barnes, who also mentioned the inflating costs of hazardous duty and retirement expenses.

The biggest priority, however, is making sure that all Richmond residents have adequate fire protection, Barnes said.

The county already has received permission from the state’s fire commissioner to help with fires within the Richmond city limits, said Judge/Executive Kent Clark.

“The city of Berea already provides service outside the city of Berea, so in effect, we’re partnering with the county,” Connelly said. “One of the most significant helps we’ve had in Berea is our volunteer fire unit. There’s good interaction between our paid firefighters and our volunteers. It is a training vehicle and a recruiting ground for future paid volunteers.”

The use of volunteer firefighters helps fire protection expenses constitute only 14 percent of Berea’s annual fiscal budget, he said.

Friday’s story will focus on the coordination among codes enforcement in Richmond, Berea and Madison County.

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