HAMILTON, TX — As cities and volunteer fire departments across Texas struggle with issues of finances, operations and control, a proposed agreement in Hamilton offers hope.
Central Texas News Now got an exclusive look at the deal which could end the years-long battle over who owns what. It will also show how both sides arrived at that deal.
Hamilton City Manager Pete Kampfer and Volunteer Fire Department and City Council member Cody Morris sat down Wednesday evening to put some finishing touches on a draft resolution that aims to end the long running tension between the city and firefighters.
Last fall, tensions came to a boiling point, but a meeting set both sides on a path to working out an agreement. That path seemingly went nowhere for months.
Recently, a city council member resigned over a lack of progress. But, along the way things started to change, and city manager Pete Kampfer sensed a change in attitude from department members in the 55-65 age group.
Then, he got a call from someone in the department inviting him to a meeting.
”He asked would you attend if you were invited and I said, 'yes I would,'” said Kampfer.
Morris says that restarted an important dialogue that brought results.
"Everybody being able to sit down in the same room and talk and you know, be adults about it and not have a shouting match, that goes a long way,” Kampfer said.
Those talks resulted in a draft resolution which allows both the fire department and the city to continue on separate paths, but with a cooperative goal.
The deal calls for the city to resume its payments to the fire department for some of its work.
In exchange for regular payments from the city, the volunteer fire department has agreed to, among other things, inspect and repair the city's 75-100 fire hydrants.
The city will also help the department build a new, bigger building than the one the city owns, and let the fire department use it for years.
Both groups said it could serve as a template for solving disputes in other cities like Little River Academy.
”You really gotta look at the aspects of, you know, how can we make it sustainable and then our agreement stand and the people behind them are worth their word," explained Kampfer.
He says, with everybody moving in the same direction, everything started falling into place, and Morris agrees.
"I feel like, in the last couple of weeks, we've made strides forward, that in the previous three years weren't possible," Morris said.
"Communication is the key, absolutely," Kampfer added.
The proposed deal should go before the Hamilton City Council at it's next meeting on July 11, where most predict it will easily pass.