(WKBN) – A committee has been formed to investigate the possibility of merging the fire departments of Boardman and Canfield. If it happens, it would be the most significant act of regionalization the Mahoning Valley has ever seen and could show other communities that regionalization could work elsewhere.

The discussion about merging the Boardman Fire Department with Canfield’s Cardinal Joint Fire District began last October when Boardman was negotiating with Canfield for a backup ambulance service. Boardman administrator Jason Loree was part of the talks.

“It makes more sense to try and join somebody else doing it, and that way, you’re not reinventing the wheel and you’re saving taxpayer dollars,” he said.

“At first, I was 50/50,” said Don Hutchison, chief of the Cardinal Joint Fire District. “I sat down with a few people that I really know and trust here that know the numbers a whole lot better than me. In the long term, it is the best of the best.”

Nothing is final yet, but the plan is to have Boardman come under the Cardinal Joint Fire District, but have Boardman maintain its own identity.

“So you would see trucks out there that say Boardman Fire Department. It would just be under the Cardinal District,” Loree said.

Canfield pays for its fire department through a dedicated fire levy. Boardman uses a fire levy and general fund money. How the merger will be financed is still being determined.

“We’ve asked the auditor for some assistance. We’ve contacted Ralph Meacham and he’s providing us with some legalese and some insight on how levy laws work for districts and townships,” Loree said.

The firefighters’ unions of both departments are part of the discussions.

“We met with them and said, ‘We’d like for you to come back with questions and options and what you’d think would be good, what you’d think would be bad,'” Hutchison said.

“When they’re looking to hire people, it’s one point of hiring. The competition locally with all these tiny, little departments isn’t there,” Loree said.

“But pros for Canfield is, right now, we have eight firefighters on duty. We would now have 15 available to respond to a fire,” Hutchison said.

Loree can see other fire departments like Poland and Austintown eventually joining, too.

“If this goes well, you will see those other communities asking to join because it just makes sense,” Loree said.

Both Loree and Hutchison say that public meetings with detailed presentations will be held after the first of next year. They expect a final decision on a merger to be made after that.