Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
Brighton Fire Dept. to keep running
BRIGHTON — A letter from the Brighton Fire Department to officials at City Hall on Tuesday said the actions taken at a Monday night city council meeting were sufficient to prevent a mass resignation of volunteers, which it had promised on March 15 if certain conditions were not met.
“The volunteers of the Brighton Volunteer Fire Department rescind the potential resignation of all members, (as) voted on March 13, 2023, by unanimous decision,” said the one-paragraph notice, signed by Fire Chief Bill Farmer. “We now want to work together to move forward.”
Mayor Melvin Rich said the city had the same feelings, almost word-for-word.
“I’m ready to work together and move forward, is all I’ve got to say,” he said.
The notice marks the end of a monthslong saga in which the city, several townships and the volunteer firefighters who served the community clashed over the terms of a number of policies.
Disagreements first came to light in early 2022, when the city council was accused of “defunding” the department. While a city payment to the fire fund took that controversy out of the public eye, tensions reignited in November, when the department said city officials were ignoring input from emergency responders and protected townships.
The next several months saw several township meetings, input from attorneys and a hired mediator, and back-and-forth frustrations aired by the parties involved.
In the last few weeks, the debates prompted a handful of policy changes. Seemingly endless city council meetings spawned a fire advisory board to prevent future miscommunication. The city allocated “up to $2,000” per year to fire station maintenance costs, before raising the number to a solid $2,000, which could accumulate over time in a newly established city subfund. Council members on Monday signed off on updated, and individualized intergovernmental agreements ensuring fire protection, which were sent to townships for consideration.
Tuesday’s memo to the city offered a sigh of relief for many in the community, where the stakes of disagreements were as high as the tensions evident in debates.
“I hope we can all heal, and get back together, and try to make this work,” Rich said at a meeting in February.