WEST LIBERTY, Iowa–Following an announcement by the West Liberty Volunteer Fire Department that they would extend service through June 3 if the West Liberty City Council continued to work towards an agreement with them regarding their formation of a new 28E agency, the West Liberty City Council approved a timeline to continue discussions at their May 3 meeting.
According to council member and public safety committee member Dana Dominguez, the city has worked on responding to the memorandum since April 28, when the city’s attorney recommended Mayor Katherine McCullough circulate it to city administration to gather feedback and questions raised about it. Initially, McCullough hoped to have all feedback collected within a few days, however, this did not prove logistically possible, so the safety committee planned to have all feedback on the memorandum submitted by May 6.
Using that information, Dominguez outlined that the public safety committee would meet to discuss the feedback itself and that it would also hold a work session with the full city council May 12 at 5:30 p.m. at the WeLead Building at 119 East Third Street in West Liberty to work through what they liked about the memorandum as well as what questions and concerns they still had with it.
The public safety committee and the council could then begin communicating with the West Liberty Volunteer Fire Department, either through their attorneys if litigation continues, or through in person meetings if litigation has ended. Dominguez expressed a preference for meeting with the department directly, as it would allow everyone to discuss some ideas a consultant had shared with the city that she felt would interest the volunteer fire fighters. However, she remained committed to keeping discussions going any way possible so that they could reach a resolution. “We’ll do what we need to do to keep this moving,” she said.
Dominguez hoped that these further discussions would make clear how much more time the council and the department would need to come to a consensus. She floated the possibility of extending discussions past the current June 3 deadline if the department okayed it and needed it to ensure that members who farm have time to get their crops planted.
Following Dominguez’s presentation on the safety committee’s tentative timeline, the council voted on a motion to adopt it. The council passed it unanimously.
Speaking before the May 3 council meeting, McCullough remained optimistic that the city and the department could settle on a suitable 28E agreement. “The best case scenario is if we can work together on a 28E agreement,” she said, emphasizing the importance of clearly defining the roles of the city, rural fire trustees, the department, and citizens in keeping the department running and funded and making sure everyone in the fire district received service.
In the event that the city and the department do not come to an agreement, McCullough assured residents that the city has reached out to other departments in neighboring cities in both Muscatine and Johnson counties to make sure they will continue to receive both fire and ambulance services. However, she fervently hopes they will never have to invoke these arrangements. “It is not what we want to do,” she said. “We know this is not the ideal situation for our citizens.”