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"It would be a fire control district under the same law that all the independent districts are now."Bonita Springs City Council member Fred Forbes, who served on the independent Bonita fire board before moving to his council post, said details of the Caldwell plan will need to emerge from the legislative process before voters can make up their minds."Consolidation, if it's not done right, can produce something that is a big bureaucracy that is more difficult to control than individual fire districts," Forbes said."But there are some fire districts that, because of social economics, are not able to provide enough revenue for their districts, so there will be pressure on all sides -- some will be for it and some will be against it."Lee County Commission Chairman John Manning said he thinks voters in the individual districts would want a handle on the costs before voting."The financials are very important," Manning said. "In making the proposal, Caldwell said the existing quilt of 19 fire agencies in the county is a map that "reflects the status quo of the 1970s, when there were 100,000 people in the county and all those people lived in the city of Fort Myers.""Asked another way, if you were starting from scratch today, would you draw it up this way? Since district lines were drawn, there have been proposals to merge some adjoining districts serving similar area,such as the North Fort Myers and Bayshore departments.A district that votes against consolidation would be able to take up the issue again in five years, if requested by either the district fire board or by petition of 5 percent of the fire district's registered voters.

"The last elections were a disaster."Merging city departments Other recommendations include merging the Annapolis parks and recreation, public works, police and fire departments.

City and county officials said they are looking for partnerships rather than consolidation.

(Joshua Mc Kerrow / Capital Gazette)The city and county could shave staff by joining the departments and closely examining responsibility overlap.

These students participated in the Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability, which tasks students with tackling real problems that affect local governments.

Uri Avin, PALS director, did not return calls for comment.

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