A tale of two fire districts’ contract

We’ve been watching as negotiations between the Falls City Fire Department and Southwest Polk Rural Fire District have carried on and declared at an impasse. Monday, Falls City residents attended a Southwest Polk board of directors meeting and spoke their concerns about not having Southwest equipment in Falls City.

They have valid concerns — longer response times, for one. It takes longer to get to Falls City from Rickreall or Dallas than from Main Street.

Some on the Southwest board of directors have said they will not give up on re-establishing a contract between the two agencies.

Falls City personnel and volunteers fear the contract presented late last year was an attempt by Southwest Fire to take control over administrative duties. It’s true that the contract would essentially make Falls City Fire Department officially part of Southwest. Falls City’s Fire Station would become a Southwest station as well as the city’s station, rather than a joint station. Other sticking points included issues with training and accreditation of volunteers, money, and “cultural differences.”

Residents demand a compromise.

A compromise is what’s needed here, but the way Falls City residents speak at meetings and on Facebook, we’re not sure they are looking for a compromise, something that requires give and take from both sides to make work.

They are concerned about the safety of their homes and families, and pointing fingers at Southwest’s fire chief and board of directors without looking to the people in charge of Falls City’s department.

It takes two to tango. Southwest cannot be expected to be the only agency to give into demands or requests. Falls City will need to decide what’s important to it and if it is important enough to continue to dig in its heels.

Calling for a third-party mediator is a good start. Southwest Fire Chief Fred Hertel said that mediator should have knowledge about fire and EMS departments and procedures.

We think a marriage counselor would work fine.

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