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City made the right decision on driving time

December 15, 2010

Well done, Marshalltown City Council.

An outdated city requirement had restricted public service workers to live within a 15-minute driving time for both the police and fire department.

On Monday evening, in a 6-1 vote, the council approved that the requirement change to 30 minutes and 20 minutes for the police and fire departments, respectively.

Article Photos

Firefighter Kerri Larsen-Vander Weide, along with other personnel from the Marshalltown Fire and Police Departments, were on hand during Monday's meeting of the Marshalltown City Council.

Marshalltown Firefighter Kerri Larsen-Vander Weide, who asked to extend the 15-minute limit last month was merely a catalyst to what both the police chief and the fire chief agreed should be done.

Police Chief Jack McAllister had requested the driving time limit be increased to 30 minutes in October of 2009. The measure was approved by the council, and then vetoed by Mayor Gene Beach.

Beach made comments prior to Monday's vote, implicating Larsen-Vander Weide broke the "sanctity of contracts" in an effort to change a long-standing requirement for her own benefit, thus setting a "terrible precedence."

We disagree.

In governing a city, it is most often best to rely on the expertise of your department heads. In this case both McAllister and Fire Chief Steve Edwards pointed toward problems of hiring and retaining quality employees. Both leaders indicated they wanted the policy changed. We trust that neither of these leaders would be quick to jeopardize the quality of their respective departments, or the safety of the residents in Marshalltown.

Meanwhile, it was short-sighted of Beach to make these claims against Larsen-Vander Weide. The firefighter said she would move to keep her job in Marshalltown should the council not change the requirement. She was willing to address the council about the matter because she knew the fire chief supported the change, and it was in the best interest of the fire department.

At face value, risks might rise with the distance our public service workers live from the city. But we'd be willing to bet that these city employees are the first to go above and beyond to get to work and do their jobs, despite proximity to the city or weather conditions.

That's part of what drives people in this line of service. They know that each day they have to protect and serve, and safeguard the people of Marshalltown. A matter of minutes isn't going to change that.



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