Energy Management:

DOE's Plan to Transfer Fire Department Operations to Los Alamos County

RCED-89-89: Published: Apr 5, 1989. Publicly Released: Apr 27, 1989.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the legality of the Department of Energy's (DOE) transfer of the Los Alamos, New Mexico, fire department operation to Los Alamos County, focusing on: (1) DOE actions to ensure that the county assumed its financial responsibility for the fire department's operation; (2) fire fighters' views on the transfer; (3) whether DOE exceeded its authorized regional staffing level; and (4) the adequacy of the fire department's equipment.

GAO found that DOE: (1) had statutory authority to contract for fire-fighting services at Los Alamos and its transfer of the fire department to the county was consistent with the statutory provisions; (2) contracted with Los Alamos County to prepare and implement the transfer; (3) would retain title to fire-fighting property and equipment, while the county would provide staff and fire-fighting and emergency medical services; (4) did not address the county's financial responsibility for its share of the department's operating costs, but required a study of the county's timetable and methods for assuming financial responsibility; and (5) planned to finance the fire department's operating costs until financial arrangements were completed. GAO also found that: (1) 10 of the 18 fire fighters it interviewed opposed the transfer because they believed that it would affect their retirement eligibility and costs, sick leave, and severance pay; (2) eight fire fighters favored the transfer because they believed that it would benefit them in such areas as training, merit promotions, and additional pay for supplemental duties; (3) contrary to allegations, DOE exceeded its regional staff limit by only 32 positions, and DOE intended the transfer to get itself out of the fire-fighting business; and (4) DOE has replaced or repaired deficient fire-fighting equipment and damaged facilities.

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