Many communities are making cuts to their fire and police departments due to the pandemic or other factors, making the backlog and challenges facing those heroes more difficult. You'd think it would be good to have more boots on the ground, but for some, the passing of House File 683 could be devastating.

According to the Courier, the bill overall "allows cities, townships and counties to establish emergency response districts for fire protection."

But as with most legislation, there is fine print, and one city in Iowa feels slighted by it.

The bill states: "a city in which an institution of higher education governed by the state board of regents is located shall establish, house, equip, staff, uniform, and maintain a full-time, professional fire department that is separate from the city’s police department.” 

The bill would ban those communities from "cross-training" and combining their fire and police departments, something Cedar Falls has already been doing. All new police and fire department hires there as of 2016 are trained to do both, in the position of "public safety officer", and those already on the force get phased into that combined training as well.

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In other words, since Cedar Falls is home to the University of Northern Iowa, the bill would require them to split up their departments, after having already combined their personnel, at a potential cost of $2 million to taxpayers.

Ames and Iowa City, home of Iowa State and the University of Iowa, respectively, do not have these types of departments, and many legislators appear to be in favor of keeping them split up, as the bill has passed 68-7 in the Iowa House.

The bill is still working its way through the Senate, where it has yet to pass, so Cedar Falls Mayor Rob Green would not comment.

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