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KATIE ZERR: Thanks to those who are part of the solution

Is this the first step to healing old wounds and starting anew or will old animosities still rule the day?
On Tuesday, Jan. 8, the Mobridge City Council made the unprecedented move of refusing to approve the roster of the Mobridge Volunteer Fire Department (MFD). It came as a bit of shock but for someone who has had a front seat to the ongoing saga of the city vs. the fire department for the past several years, it wasn’t unforeseen.
The timing was not good in my eyes, but the message was clear. The council was not going to deal with any further drama from the fire department. Rules are rules and they put their foot down.
It is very unfortunate that they chose to do it at a time when the fire department seemed to be getting back on track to being the cream of the crop in South Dakota.
We as a community have had reason to have great pride in our fire department. It was for a long time considered one of the best-trained and emergency-ready departments in the state.
In talking to the South Dakota State Fire Marshall Paul Merriman on Tuesday, he reiterated that fact. He also reassured me that the department had their certification up to date with the state. He said the state would now be waiting to offer any training help the city needs to get the department trained and ready to go in the coming months.
That is great, but there is nothing like hands on experience to make any group the best they can be.
That is why, when the list of volunteers who applied to be a part of the new MFD contained several firefighters from the previous team, it was encouraging. Then as the meeting began, three more firefighters joined the meeting and asked that their names be included on the list.
It took a lot of guts for those men, who felt like they had been kicked in the teeth by the City of Mobridge, to put the people of the community first. It says so much about their character and their desire to serve our community.
They are first firefighters. They are the cream of the crop and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for taking this tremendously difficult step. For those firefighters to step up and do that should be commended by everyone in this community.
I understand both sides to this saga. I have sat through those meetings and had hours upon hours of discussions about the problems that have existed between the two entities of the past several years.
I also know that steps were being taken to rectify the situation, but the new officers of the MFD didn’t have a chance to follow through before last Tuesday.
The city has their reasons and many of those reasons are valid. Again, there are two sides to this. The safety of members of this community was their priority.
Some of the battle lines that were drawn in this ongoing disagreement were ridiculous and did nothing but harm. Times change, laws change and we have to also change.
It is time to put those old animosities behind us and move forward.
I also want to commend those who submitted applications for the new team saying they would volunteer to help if they are needed.
Some on the list may never make the team that puts boots to the ground, but their special skills could be used for other purposes.
There are some familiar names that have certain skill sets and then there are those who just said, “count me in.”
Mayor Gene Cox said Wednesday morning that he plans to be at every meeting of the new MFD. He said he feels it is vitally important that this be a smooth transition and that old problems need to be part of the past and not the future.
To the members of this community I think it is important to remember that not everything said on social media is true. Those who decide to voice their opinion without knowing certain circumstance only exacerbate the situation.
It is not easy to be a member of governing board especially in a small community. These decisions are not made easily. They are not based on whims especially in this kind of circumstance.
So instead of getting on your computer and adding two cents worth to a conversation that can do irreparable harm to someone’s reputation or hurt their families, why not call your council or commission representative or talk to them face-to-face to hear their reasoning? That would make the most sense.
I would also like to thank those who did just that and went to those directly involved. They made a difference. I applaud the fact that there are people in this community who said they would help and did just that.
Most of all, thanks to those who are willing every day to put their lives on the line to keep us safe. To our firefighters, our law enforcement, dispatchers, first responders and ambulance crews, we owe you more than thanks can ever say.