Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2010

Degree Type


Degree Name



Political Science

First Advisor

Jered B. Carr


Metropolitan regions have emerged in the United States as important economic units with numerous small local governments each providing various public services. The movement toward city-county consolidation has frequently been defeated at the polls. Frederickson (1999) argues that metropolitan areas have become so fragmented in their approach to service delivery that they constitute what he describes as a "disarticulated state", characterized by the declining salience of jurisdiction, the fuzziness of borders and an erosion of the capacity of the local jurisdiction to contain and, thereby, manage complex social, economic and political issues. Feiock (2009) contends that much of the urban politics and public administration literatures tend to focus on regional governments and authorities as a way of solving collective action problems in metropolitan regions. Feiock (2008) also argues that little is currently known about the dynamics of how governance mechanisms emerge and operate in fragmented metropolitan areas.

This study sought to examine how such governance mechanisms develop in a metropolitan area and more specifically how fire services might be provided through interlocal collaboration. Using the case study method, this research uses Feiock's (2004) Institutional Collective Action framework to examine the following issues and their relation to interlocal cooperation: (1) state level rules, (2) transaction and production cost characteristics of public services, (3) characteristics of regions and communities and, (4) political structures. This research also uses the three-part framework of Zeemering (2007) which measures (1) the conjunction of policy stimuli, (2) perceptions of intergovernmental partners and social capital and, (3) the terms of the proposed collaboration. This study also uses Zeemering's framework for examining the differing roles played by elected and administrative actors in collaboration.

Findings of this study indicate that a certain level of trust among, and prior experience with, partners is important in overcoming the obstacles to collaboration. Contrary to much of the literature, this study found that losing control over fire service delivery was not perceived as an important obstacle to collaboration. This study provides support for prior research that fiscal stress can be a significant motivation leading cities to collaborate. Supporting the work of Kingdon (2003), this study found the activities of policy entrepreneurs, both elected and administrative officials, to be important to this effort at collaboration. This study also provides support for the theory that social and professional networks may help facilitate interlocal collaboration (LeRoux 2006).

This study concludes that voluntary interlocal collaboration on fire services is difficult and a lack of trust among the cities participating, and between the labor and management within each city, is a significant obstacle to collaboration. This study also found that it is very important that participants in collaboration have a clear understanding of the goals they are seeking and have similar expectations of the likely benefits of collaboration. Collaborating partners generally seek out cities that are adjacent to their own, have similar demographics to their own, fire service needs similar to their own and that have sufficient fiscal resources to facilitate the joint effort.

This study found strong support for the need to have an outside third party, perhaps a higher level of government, provide standard labor, funding and operating agreements for collaborative efforts to local governments rather than allowing them to attempt drafting individual agreements.