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Monday, June 27, 2022

West Liberty, fire department move negotiations forward

Margaret Hurlberthttps://discovermuscatine.com
Margaret Hurlbert works as the Editor of Discover Muscatine Newspaper.

Muscatine Living

WEST LIBERTY, Iowa–After an initial setback, the City of West Liberty and the West Liberty Volunteer Fire Department appear poised to continue negotiations on creating a 28E agreement that will allow the department to operate as an independent agency that collaborates with its two major constituents, the City of West Liberty and the Rural Trustees. For the June 7 West Liberty City Council meeting, Council Member and Public Safety Committee Member Dana Dominguez has requested the council discuss and possibly sign a collective commitment agreement with the West Liberty Volunteer Fire Department and the Rural Trustees. Dominguez reports that she spoke with West Liberty Volunteer Fire Chief Kirt Sickels and received verbal assurance that the department would extend service at least through June 7 to allow the council to discuss the agreement.

Initially, the West Liberty Public Safety Committee, which consists of Dominguez and fellow council member Omar Martinez, planned to meet with members of the West Liberty Volunteer Fire Department and the Rural Trustees the evening of May 23 to discuss the 28E agreement and memorandum of understanding the department created as well as a consultant report and draft 28E agreement the city published. However, as relatively new city council members, Dominguez and Martinez did not realize that in order to meet with the trustees, they had to post an agenda 24 hours in advance of the meeting and have a city clerk present to comply with open meeting laws. When City Manager David Haugland told them about these requirements, the two informed the department and trustees that they could not attend.

However, the council wanted to keep talks going with all the parties involved so that they could eventually reach an agreement that satisfies all of them and retains fire and emergency medical services for both the City of West Liberty and the rural areas around it. To that end, Dominguez requested Mayor Katie McCullough add discussion and possible action to sign a collective commitment agreement with the Volunteer Fire Department to the June 7 city council agenda. The agreement would officially start collective negotiation between the three parties with the goal of creating a 28E agreement satisfactory to all of them. If all parties agreed, negotiations could continue through Oct. 1. During the negotiation period, the West Liberty Volunteer Fire Department would continue to provide its usual fire and emergency medical services to the City of West Liberty.

The evening of May 24, Dominguez shared she received a call from Sickels informing her that the department would extend their end service date to at least June 7 to allow the council to discuss and possibly vote on the collective commitment agreement. Dominguez stated, “I am very happy to report that Chief Sickels called me this evening to let me know that the volunteers are extending their resignation deadline to June 7 to allow us to discuss and hopefully agree to a new timeline that will ultimately extend the deadline until October of this year. This is incredibly favorable to both Omar and me since it allows us to continue service to the community and rural without interruption while the Public Safety Committee continues to work with the other parties to propose a new workable agreement.”

This story continues to develop and may receive updates.

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