Hiawatha’s interim Fire Chief, Gene Atland, was present at Monday night’s meeting of the Hiawatha City Commission, seeking support for a potential reorganization of the department.
The change from a fire department to a fire district would move the groups funding and governance out from under the city’s scope.
Atland said that no final decision has been made on creating a district, but came to the commission to be sure that they had the blessing of the group before moving forward.
“We’re not trying to bail out on the city,” he said, but stated that unresolved issues with the city have led to a desire to be more autonomous. In November, the City Commission had terminated Chief Ryan Shockley from the position, with no word as to why. Members of the fire department had approached the city in open session to ask for his reinstatement, but the city’s only action had been to appoint Atland as interim chief.
Mayor Bill Collins said that the city is here to support the department if they wish to make the move.
City Attorney Andy Delaney said that the department could ask the Brown County Commission to bring a resolution forming the fire district, which would include the Hiawatha and Padonia Townships, or could bring a petition to the county.
With the City Commission on board, it was voted for Delaney to bring back a Resolution of Intent stating that the city supports the formation of the fire department. Collins also agreed with Atland that assistance would be available for the paperwork and process should the decision be made to move forward.