Officials with Keller and Westlake decided to let an interlocal agreement involving a temporary fire department merger expire Aug. 1.
Since April 1, 2021, Westlake Fire Chief Richard Whitten has served as the acting chief for the Keller Fire Department as the two cities considered merging their departments. The goal was to improve services and expand regional response capabilities, according to an Aug. 4 city of Keller newsletter. Keller saw improvements through this merger, according to the newsletter. A feasibility study completed by Matrix Consulting Group determined the merger would be effective and suggested a four-year phased approach for merging the two departments, according to the newsletter. Keller Human Resources Director Marcia Reyna and City Manager Mark Hafner responded to questions from Community Impact Newspaper by email.
“Throughout this 16-month agreement, we dropped the boundaries between the two cities to serve our residents and realized some better response times,” the email stated. “We also trained together, shared a fire chief who modeled the servant-leadership style, and learned that we were stronger together and provided better service to both communities.”
With new members being added to Westlake Town Council and the Westlake town manager resigning last month, Hafner stated in the newsletter that this was not the right time to merge.
Keller Deputy Fire Chief Shane Gainer is serving as interim fire chief while the human resources department conducts a nationwide search for the city’s next fire chief, according to Reyna and Hafner. In the short term, the main difference in cost for the city of Keller is the salary for the new fire chief, according to Reyna and Hafner. Westlake Town Council decided to table discussions on the fire department merger until its Aug. 29 meeting, according to Westlake Communications Manager Erin Spicer.
At the time, the agreement was signed in 2021; Keller had 57 employees operating out of three stations; and Westlake had 18 employees who operated out of a single fire station. The Keller Fire Department responded to 4,268 calls for service in 2021, according to Reyna and Hafner. Keller and Westlake will continue to share other services. The Northeast Tarrant Communications Center, which is based in Keller, serves Keller, Westlake, Southlake and Colleyville. In addition, the town of Westlake has a contract with the Keller Police Department to provide police service and animal control services.
As reported by Sara Rodia in Community Impact 8.15.22