DAWSON — The five-member Dawson City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to dissolve the Dawson Volunteer Fire Department and merge the current personnel and equipment with the Perry Volunteer Fire Department. The 28E sharing agreement governing the arrangement was unanimously approved by the Perry City Council Monday.
“The city budget in Dawson has gotten to the point where they don’t feel they can adequately support a fire department,” Perry Volunteer Fire Department Chief Chris Hinds told the Perry council. “They’re looking for something a little more economical for them but that will still provide the adequate services that are needed for the city. This was the best fix for all parties involved.”
The Dawson force will be consolidated with or folded into the Perry Volunteer Fire Department, Hinds said.
“What this means is that as of midnight on July 1, the Dawson Fire Department will no longer exist,” he said. “The guys over there will be become members of the Perry department, and their equipment and gear will become Perry equipment and gear.”
Under the 28E agreement, the Dawson station will remain in use, and a pumper truck from the Perry department will be stationed in Dawson. The city of Perry will replace the truck sent to Dawson with a new or newer truck to be housed in Perry.
“Each department is rated on its efficiency and equipment and ability to fight fires,” Hinds said, “and that affects homeowner and business insurance and a lot more. Right now the truck in Dawson is from the middle or late 1970s and is not even rated anymore, so it will have to be replaced.”
The Perry Fire Department currently has 36 members, and Dawson has a five-person crew.
Dawson Volunteer Fire Department Chief Bill Kempf has served on the city’s firefighting force for 48 years, while Bobby Morman joined the department just one week ago. Mike Heinz is the only certified First Responder in Dawson. His father, Joel Heinz, and Billy Carpenter round out the Dawson force.
The agreement can be nullified by either party but must be done so at least 90 days before June 30 in any year. Given the unanimity of the two city councils, it is unlikely either party will decide to opt out in the near future, Hinds said.
According to the terms of the agreement, the city of Dawson will reimburse the city of Perry $1,500 annually, in two separate payments of $750 each, for fire protection from Perry.
Perry City Council member Chuck Schott asked what benefit to the city of Perry, apart from Dawson’s annual payment, would come from incorporating the Dawson department into Perry’s.
“It seems to me like we are splitting our people during times of an emergency,” Schott said. “If we happen to have a fire in both places at the same time, we’re going to have some people in Dawson. I’m all for helping our neighbor. Don’t get me wrong. But I also think there should be something about this that’s good for Perry.”
“If we need help, Dawson has always been the community we go to first for mutual aid,” Hinds said. “And if we get two fire calls at the same time, it’s not going to be any different than currently if we get two fire calls at the same time. We’re going to respond to both calls. We’re going to send what equipment we need to the areas where we we need it, and we will be calling for mutual aid ourselves.”
Perry has mutual aid contracts with Woodward, Panora, Rippey and several other communities, Hinds said.
The Dawson Fire District includes the corporate limits of the city of Dawson as well as Dallas and Lincoln Townships. Once the agreement takes effect, the newly enlarged Perry Fire District would include the former Dawson Fire District, and the Perry Volunteer Fire Department would respond to fires or emergency situations in that area as well as in the present Perry Fire District.
“Both the guys in Dawson and our guys will be paged at the same time for any calls for aid in the areas we (Perry) currently cover as well as the areas we will be picking up from Dawson’s old protection district,” Hinds said. “There will still be equipment and gear housed in Dawson’s building, it will just be a kind of substation for Perry.”
Hinds said the Dawson firefighters could always cancel the call for aid from the city of Perry in the event of a minor incident, such as a dumpster fire or a similar one- or two-man situation.
“They could reach us and say ‘Hey, we have it under control. There is no need to come over,’ and we would go back to Perry,” Hinds said. “The difference is that now we will already be rolling on it as opposed to waiting for a call for mutual aid. We will already be in motion if needed.”
The dividing line between the two districts is F Avenue, with members living west of that line housing their gear in Dawson and responding to calls within the Dawson Fire District, while calls originating east of the F Avenue line would be answered by the Perry firehouse.
“What I want to see is the stopping of taking personal vehicles to calls,” Hinds said. “I want everyone to respond to where the gear and equipment is and then roll from there. What good is it to show up at a scene and not be able to do anything? It doesn’t make sense, and it adds tremendously to liability issues.”
A public hearing was held before The Dawson City Council meeting Tuesday. Except for a brief discussion of the agreement, no one from the public addressed the board either for or against the consolidation with Perry.
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