28E agency proposal presented Monday


A work session was held Monday, Feb. 13, at the West Liberty Community Center to go over what the mayor’s fire task force has worked on regarding the proposed 28E agency agreement.

Attending the meeting were all of the West Liberty city councilmembers and mayor Ethan Anderson, representatives from the volunteer fire department and EMS department, rural township trustee members and interested community members.

There has to be an entity to manage the public tax dollars that are collected for fire services, Anderson said. For many years, that entity was designated as the city government of West Liberty. The fire department is a hybrid organization. They have their own association and by-laws but also have a lot with the city. The rural townships surrounding the city elect trustees and pay into the fund for fire protection.

“Fire would like to have more control, more hands on effort in some of the pieces in what goes on in managing the fire department and so that’s the piece that they’re basically asking for,” Anderson added.

The rural townships want to have more of a say in what happens to the funds, he added. They have some say now but it doesn’t add up to the money they’re paying for fire services.

“Not only the financial but in the decision making,” rural trustee and task force member Dick Brand said.

The fire department has proposed becoming it’s own entity, Anderson said. They would have the City of West Liberty and rural townships as their clients. Members from those entities would be on the board of that fire agency.

“There’s a lot of work to be done but the groundwork for that potential change has been laid,” Anderson added.

Chairperson Dana Dominguez said the 28E agreement would be approved by all the parties involved so everyone would know what is expected from the fire agency. The volunteers and the board members would approve the bylaws for the agency.


West Liberty Volunteer Firefighter Eric Christensen, who also is a member of the task force, said everyone probably wants to know what the impact would be forming this agency. He said this would have very little impact. If you dial 911, they would still respond.


The board would have nine members, Brand said. Two would be appointed or elected by the city council. Two would come from the rural trustees and two would come from the fire department. The city, rural trustees and fire department would select three at-large individuals.

“The individuals on the board will serve a three year term but to begin with it’s going to have to have a staggered start,” he added.

They don’t want a complete changeover on the administrative board three years later. People could be re-elected or reappointed if they want to.

Term limits are being considered, Brand said. They’re looking at a maximum of three terms or nine years so the board has new members join with new ideas.

Once the agency is formed, the city and rural townships would sign agreements with the 28E agency. The task force would cease to function. The agency would take over all administrative control.


Volunteer EMS and task force member Mindy Sickels-Sterbenz explained how agencies were funded. A cost share formula was used using property valuations in the specific service area and the number of fire calls the agency responds to. She did a rough calculation when the task force started using the property valuations from the last assessment of the rural trustees, property valuation online from the city, the latest census data for the rural townships and used an average of fire calls from the past five years. She found it was close to a 50 percent split for both the city and rural townships. Most of the members of the task force thought this would be a good start but would need to be re-evaluated on an annual basis.

No entity would be obligated to contribute anymore than they are now, she said. The fire department would run on the same budget they have now and would maintain it.


Right now all the equipment and the building is titled to the city, Christensen said. The agency proposes the assets be titled over to the agency through leasing options potentially. Separate leasing agreements would be made for the equipment, the building and money in the accounts. There would be a time limit but that amount of time hasn’t been decided yet.

The majority of the money in the accounts would be transferred to the agency but a little would be left with the city for ambulance billings until its all settled, he said. Once that is complete, the agency would want all of the accounts with them.

Next steps

The task force asked the city council and rural trustees to go back to their entities to see if they wanted to continue conversation of forming the 28E agency. A consultant could be brought in to assist with forming the 28E agency, Sickels-Sterbenz said. If the rural trustees or the city council decided not to move forward then why pay for a consultant.

Anderson reminded everyone the meeting was a work session and no formal decisions could be made that evening. He also said there still was a lot of work to be done but was glad they were able to present what they have worked on so far.

Anderson told city council that they could request having the task force continue as an agenda item for a future city council meeting. City councilmember Ashley Smith made this request.