Update on affairs of the City and Fire Department/Ambulance Service
-During the City Council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 21, the council will consider the resolution for additional staffing of the West Liberty Ambulance Service
-During the same meeting, the City Council will consider extending the deadline to Jan. 31, 2022, for new 28E Agreements
-The City of West Liberty has not, and will not, tell the Fire and Emergency Department to discontinue service to rural residents
Sept. 9, 2021– During the City Council Meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021, the council voted, 3-2, to table a resolution that would increase staffing at the West Liberty Ambulance Service.
They did so in order to receive additional financial information from the department. Before the meeting a work session was held to discuss those staffing needs.
During the work session, the Council voiced concern about the sustainability of new staff at the West Liberty Ambulance Service. They were concerned about the use of reserve funds to jumpstart the positions and the current condition of the ambulances.
Fire Chief Sickels, under whose supervision the Ambulance Services operates, and members of the department responded that there is enough in the reserve fund and that the department isn’t looking to replace ambulances soon. However, the council requested clarification on the financial situation and additional information in the form of a budget.
Now that the City has received this requested additional information, the resolution will once again come before the West Liberty City Council during its meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 21.
The City of West Liberty, through its Fire Department, and the West Liberty Rural Fire District through its Board of Trustees, as well as the City and the Rural Ambulance Board are members of two separate 28E Agreements for the provision of fire protection services and ambulance services.
Basically, a 28E agreement permits state and local governments in Iowa to cooperate with each other and other governmental agencies to provide services of a mutual advantage to its citizens.
In this case, a 28E agreement between the City of West Liberty and Board of Trustees for the West Liberty Rural Fire District, and a separate 28E agreement between the City of West Liberty and the Rural Ambulance Board, provide for fire protection and ambulance services in a cooperative effort for citizens of West Liberty and those outside of West Liberty’s city limits.
However, the City Council terminated these agreements in March, 2021, deciding to move forward with negotiations for new agreements with its partners. The current agreements do not contain all of the necessary provisions required by the Iowa Code for 28E agreements and they are not consistent with each other in their financial terms. The City sought the opportunity to replace the agreements with new ones before voting to terminate, and after some negotiations, decided it was best to terminate and replace them before July 1, 2021, instead of moving forward another year or more with the current agreements. The Council intended to enter into new agreements and hoped these would be in place by July 1, 2021
At no point did the City of West Liberty indicate it would not allow the Fire Department or the Ambulance Service to serve rural West Liberty.
Originally the parties extended the time frame to enter new agreements by extending the current ones through to Sept. 30, 2021. However, with the deadline looming and no agreements put forward to the City, the Council will now vote to extend the deadline to Jan. 31, 2022.
It is the City’s hope that it can work with the Fire District’s Board of Trustees and the Rural Ambulance Board to have new 28E Agreements that can be approved by the City Council before the new deadline expires.
Rural and City agree to Extend
Wednesday, June 9, 2021– The City of West Liberty received acknowledgment from the West Liberty Rural Ambulance Board and West Liberty Rural Fire District today and have agreed to the amendment to extend the current agreements.
On behalf of Mayor Hartman and the West Liberty City Council we would like to extend our appreciation to Attorney Tharp and West Liberty Rural Fire and Ambulance District, for your hard work and the agreed-upon extension. City Leadership and Staff look forward to continuing discussions and work with the Rural Trustees to renew the 28 E Agreements.
City and Trustees working to
discuss a new agreement
Tuesday, June 8, 2021- On Thursday, June 3, an email from Attorney Bill Tharp informed the City that Rural Trustee Board Members of the Fire District and Ambulance Board would not be available to meet with the City’s Safety Committee for a scheduled meeting on June 3.
This meant no further discussion on passing a new 28E Agreement, which would officially put in place plans for the West Liberty Fire Department to provide service to rural areas would happen at this meeting.
“The City of West Liberty will continue to provide Emergency Service to our Rural Community Members if our support is needed,” says West Liberty Mayor Hartman.
However, there is concern that the City’s insurance will not cover the emergency response beyond city limits if an agreement is not brought forward to the council for approval. This concern is still being reviewed by the City.
Back on April 25, 2021, the City Council held a special meeting where it unanimously passed an amendment to extend the Fire District and Rural Ambulance 28 E Agreements from July 1, 2021, until September 30, 2021.
The City Council took this step in an effort to allow sufficient time for fair and thorough discussions of the 28 E Agreements with the Rural Trustee Board Members of the Fire District and Ambulance Board.
The City sent signed copies of the amendments, and resolutions documents were delivered, electronically to Attorney Tharp and received a response verifying his office had received them.
On May 18, 2021, Mayor Hartman directed the Public Safety Committee to set a meeting with the Rural Trustee Board Members of the Fire District and Ambulance Board to continue the discussions. Mayor Hartman directed the discussion to include the amendments to extend the current 28 E Agreements through September 30, 2021; to review the current drafts of the proposed new 28 E Agreements and continue negotiating the few outstanding items.
As per the Mayor’s orders, the Public Safety Committee did set a meeting on June 3, 2021, at 7 p.m. at 119 E 3rd Street with the following agenda:
Public Safety Committee Meeting June 3, 2021, 7:00pm
Public Safety Committee Agenda:
1. Discussion does the Rural Trustees have an intent to sign extension of the 28 E Agreements until September 30, 2021
2. Discussion and review of the draft 28 E Agreements to send to Council for their review
3. City recommendation to hire a consultant for a comprehensive plan for the Fire and Ambulance Operations.
The City of West Liberty initially received a note from one Rural Trustee member who planned to attend, but the previously mentioned email was received then from Attorney Tharp at 2:39 p.m.
It stated with regards to the meeting and discussions:
From: Bill Tharp
Sent: Thursday, June 03, 2021, 2:39 PM
To: Lara Lozano
Subject: Please Send to City Council and Others Emails to City Have Been Sent and Send a Copy to Our Clients
Dear City of West Liberty of Iowa:
This is a communication regarding a work session, committee meeting, or other meeting involving the West Liberty Rural Fire District and Ambulance Board as well as the members of the West Liberty Fire Department and Ambulance Service proposed to take place on June 3, 2021.
First, my clients will not be attending the meeting tonight. As the Rural Trustees explained on February 11, 2021, at the Public Safety Committee meeting, they needed the matter resolved, but would not be able to meet on April 1 or for the foreseeable future after that date since they would be in the fields. That is why the City and the Trustees agreed to allow the 2007 agreement for fire protection and ambulance service to automatically renew on April 1 so that the City could get its accounting together allowing a 28E Agreement to be signed and filed by July or August, it was hoped. The City turned around and sent a document, to whom and by which manner it is still unknown, around April 1 in an attempt to terminate the agreements. Although ineffective to terminate the agreements, it did not change the fact that the Rural Trustees are unavailable for a meeting per the reason given on February 11, 2021. In a farming state, weather conditions can dictate schedules – or crops ultimately will not be harvested, something public policy demands we avoid.
Also, my clients are not attending this meeting upon my advice as their counsel. My clients wisely chose to follow my advice. This meeting will be addressing issues where litigation has been threatened or is imminent, and possible disclosure of information may prejudice my clients. I have noticed that the City has used similar language when matters concerning the respective parties are involved, so I am certain that it fully understands why my clients should not attend.
It is challenging to find a time in which my clients can meet, but it is anticipated that the representatives will meet on Tuesday. At that time, the representatives will finally be at an official meeting where they can discuss the resolution passed by The City of West Liberty, Iowa, in late April extending the agreements for rural fire protection and ambulance service until September 30, 2021, as that resolution was passed at the meeting in late April. Paperwork will either be delivered or I will inform the City that my clients are refusing the extension of the agreements.
The City will be updated either Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.
William B. Tharp
Attorney and Counselor at Law
The West Liberty Public Safety Committee held its meeting on June 3, 2021, at 7 p.m.Council Member Rock, Committee Chair called the meeting to order at 7:05 p.m. In attendance for the meeting: Council Member Smith, City Clerk Lee Geertz, and City Attorney Jamie Bosten. Absent per invite from the meeting: Rural Trustee Board Members: Richard Brand, Austin Maas, Mark Madsen, Jerry Anderson, Alan Feldman, Fire Chief Sickels, Assistant Fire Chief Christensen, and Firefighter Eric Christensen.
Mayor Hartman was absent due to a conflict with his work schedule. Complete minutes will be published on the website within the next 7 days, and those minutes will reflect that the Public Safety Committee reviewed the message from Attorney Tharp and appreciated his indications that a response from the Rural Trustees would be coming next week Tuesday or Wednesday.
In an effort to be ready to continue the important work in this matter, the Public Safety Committee has set another meeting for June 9, 2021 at 1 p.m. to review the anticipated response and work towards a resolution.Lee Geertz
Emergency Services will Continue
Rumors that the city is going to cut off Fire and Emergency services to rural West Liberty are false
Friday, May 7, 2021- Rumors have circulated that the City of West Liberty is working to discontinue Fire and Emergency Services to rural West Liberty. This information is false.
Rather, the City is attempting to update and renew an agreement between it and the Rural Fire Board of Trustees that will continue emergency services to rural areas.
The Problem: The current agreement, referred to as a 28E agreement in Iowa Code, was not filed correctly; therefore, it is not officially recognized by the State of Iowa. This creates a liability for the city and the fire department, one that must be addressed as soon as possible.
The Solution: The West Liberty City Council held a special meeting on Wednesday, March 31, after members of the council met with the Fire Board the previous day to discuss the issue.
During the special meeting, the council approved a resolution terminating the problematic agreement on June 30, 2021, with the intent of entering into a new 28E Agreement with the Fire District.
On Sunday, April 25, the city council held another special meeting where it passed a resolution to extend the deadline for an agreement from July 1 to Sept. 30.
Right Now: The city is waiting to receive an official agreement from the Fire Board of Trustees. When it does, it will approve the new 28E agreement as per Iowa Code. This will officially continue emergency service to rural West Liberty.
However, the city and fire department will not discontinue emergency service to any area it currently serves now or in the future.
We agree that all citizens, inside and outside of city limits, are worth protecting. Fire and Emergency Services will continue serving rural West Liberty, there is no plan to stop it.
The City of West Liberty looks forward to working with the West Liberty Fire and Emergency Department as well as the West Liberty Fire Board of Trustees.
Questions and Answers
Q: Is the West Liberty Fire Department a part of the City of West Liberty?
A: Yes, the Fire Department, like the Water, Sewer and other departments, is part of the city. This is because they draw from the city’s General Fund. City departments get to choose how to spend their part of the fund within the law and city code, but their primary source of income, including the fire department, comes from the city.
Q: Is the City trying to get rid of the Fire Chief?
A: No, the city is not trying to remove the Fire Chief. Currently, the Fire Chief is a volunteer position that receives a stipend. The Chief oversees the fire department, including day-to-day operations and the budget. Given the growth of our town, we are moving towards making the Chief a full-time position. However, that is still in discussion.
Q: Why is the City deleting comments on social media?
A: The city uses social media to put out information to the public. Normally comments are allowed, but they are not required. When comments defame members of the city and its departments or spread false information, they can be removed as per city code.
Q: How can I make my voice be heard by the city council?
A: You can contact the city by phone (319-627-2418) and ask to be put on the agenda for the upcoming city council meeting. Every regular city council meeting has time for Public Comments and Correspondence, during which members are allowed to speak from 2-5 minutes to speak. To be on the agenda you must contact the city the Thursday prior to the Tuesday meeting.
Q: Why does the city keep having issues with the live feed during city council meetings?
A: The city had to rethink several aspects of how it operates during the Covid-19 outbreak. For city council meetings, it began using Zoom and Facebook Live. At times software updates and unforeseen issues arise. When this happens the city attempts to provide an alternative as quickly as possible. The city never has the intention to shut down a live feed. It should also be known all city council meetings are now being stored on YouTube. We will continue to stream city council meetings live.