Letter: VNL Whistleblower story about fire department collaboration was misleading
On June 19, the Valley News Live Whistleblower team ran a misleading story about the joint powers agreement between the Perley-Lee Township Fire Department and the Hendrum Fire Department.
The joint powers agreement was a long-planned, carefully-thought-out, collaborative effort between the leadership of both departments. The purpose of the agreement was to combine manpower and resources between two small communities that often struggle to staff, train and pay for the quality level of fire protection needed by its residents.
Two former Perley-Lee Township Fire Department members, who moved out of the area and are no longer employed by the fire department, led the charge on the misleading, inaccurate and detrimental statements about our communities.
According to the story, former Perley rescue chief, Crystal, explains it as follows: "Say we have one guy that's been on there for 30 years," she said, "Now that we switched, you have to go put in an application to be on the fire department again, and so he would be starting all over again. He would not get anything from those 30 years that he put in."
This is completely false. Any training and knowledge the firefighters had will carry into the new agreement. There is no loss of any previous training credit.
Perley-Lee Township did not have a relief association. As such, none of the firefighters were able to receive a pension if things stayed unchanged. With the agreement, all the firefighters that staff the Perley-Lee Township Fire Department will have the opportunity to join an established relief association and earn credit towards a pension.
Former chief, Kasey Hegreberg, told Valley News Live, "It's still gonna be Perley, it's still gonna be our fire trucks, but still, they're in charge. They're in command of Perley Fire Department, and it's gonna be a lot more training. It's gonna be more, more of everything."
How can having the opportunity to take advantage of more training be a bad thing? How can the opportunity to advance the knowledge and safety of yourself and your fellow firefighters be bad?
It was also alleged in the interview that response times for fire calls would increase. The response times will be exactly the same as now, with the addition of firefighters who respond from both communities having the benefit of being familiar with running each other's equipment, training together to work more effectively and safely, and gaining a camaraderie that comes from pulling together to help others.
We wish the Valley News Live Whistleblower team had taken an equal amount of time to research the complete story as they took to drive to our town to interview a disgruntled former member of the community who was attempting to tarnish a transition that will be beneficial for both departments.
In conclusion, we appreciate the commitment and time put into being a rural volunteer firefighter and/or first responders and the value that these committed people bring to our communities.
Members of the board are Dan Krogstad, Jim Newburgh, Sal Gullekson, Rod Ambuehl, Marv Thompson and Leslie Holm