Officials looking to combine Stuart & Martin County Fire Departments

STUART, FL (WFLX) - The city of Stuart is facing a $1 million deficit in next year's budget, but resolving the problem could lie with the Martin County government.

"Fire rescue is a vital service, but it's also an expensive service," said Mayor Troy McDonald.

That's why the city is now looking at consolidating its fire department with Martin County to create one department. "These are tough decisions that we have to make," said McDonald.

A new report by the Martin County Taxpayers Association found the move could save a lot of money. Richard Geisinger will present it to Martin County Commissioners on Tuesday morning. "[It could save] very easily a million dollars," says Geisinger.

Geisinger says there's an overlap of service between the city and county. "They each run to each other's calls it seems like many times," said Geisinger.

The idea was born last month after a contentious meeting in Stuart.

Residents were upset over a proposed fire assessment fee to fill a budget shortfall. Geisinger says consolidation would take care of that shortfall.  He says the city only needs one fire station. "I'm sure they'll end up closing a station in the city on Monterey [Road], and, with any consolidation, you're going to see early retirement or losing some staff," says Geisinger.

Stuart's mayor says cutting staff is a difficult decision. The city also needs to make sure safety comes first. "Response time is the upmost importance," says McDonald. "These are our first responders."

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