Letter sent to Central City residents regarding loss of fire department ‘misleading at best’

Published: Dec. 9, 2022 at 4:44 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) -A letter is sparking confusion and concern over whether one town will lose its fire department. Central City Fire Department volunteers sent the letter to residents this week.

Letter sent to Central City residents.
Letter sent to Central City residents.(KCRG)

“I’m kind of taken a back by the letter,” said Central City Council Member Chad Watkinson.

Watkinson told TV9 the city had no warning the letter was going out. That’s despite the letter’s claim that the “City Council has proposed to dissolve the Central City Fire Department” and instead contract “services with the 3rd Fire District of Linn County.”

”That letter that was sent out was sent out on behalf of the volunteer 501C3 group, 501C3 group and I would characterize that as misleading at best,” said Watkinson.

He says the letter leaves out the important fact that a fire department will remain in Central City.

”I think misinformation. There’s been a lot of information going out that isn’t so. And you know people will talk,” said Leon Soukup, Trustee for Linn County Rural Fire District 3.

In reality city leaders have held public meetings on the change for a year. The proposal does put Linn County’s Fire District 3 in charge of Central City’s Fire Department. District 3 already operates out of the same facility as the Central City volunteer fire department.

“Nothing will change. It will be the same protection we have now as we had before. The same amount of equipment or maybe even more,” Soukup explained.

The reason for a change is mostly logistics. The city would pay a set fee each year for fire services instead of having to agree on and split costs 50-50 with District 3 as they do currently.

“Before, lets say the fire department need a hose. Well the city would have to cut a check for 50% of that and the District would have to cut a check for 50% of that. This will just streamline everything,” said Watkinson.

It may also mean a new, bigger fire station in Central City.

The city plans to sell a land a piece of land off of Highway 13 to District 3 for $1. District 3 would then pay to build a brand new fire station to serve Central City and the surrounding areas. The fire department will remain volunteer.

“The fire department and all of it’s equipment will be housed in town here. They’ll be better staffed, response times will stay the same or go down. Insurance rates will not go up,” Watkinson said.

The Central City Fire Department sent us the following statement Friday evening: “The Central City Fire Department Volunteers sent out the letter to make the citizens we serve aware of the potential changes that could be coming to the emergency response in Central City and the 3rd Fire District, due to the lack of transparency by both the City of Central City and the 3 rd Fire District of Linn County. We wanted to advise the community that the Central City, City Council is considering removing the Central City Fire Department and contracting with a Department that the 3 rd Fire District of Linn County is creating for emergency response and fire protection. The current Volunteers were informed that they would need to apply to be part of the new department, with no guarantee of being approved for membership. Therefore, the current Fire Department would be dissolved and replaced with a new Fire Department from the 3rd Fire District, under a different name. This not only changes the dynamics of the department but also neglects the decades of combined experience that the current Volunteers have.”

The city will discuss the contract proposal and have public comment during it’s meeting Wednesday night.