Two negotiating teams capable of making deal

The city of Fairmont and surrounding townships have rightly cooperated over the years on fire protection services. It’s a common enough situation for cities and their neighboring townships. Rather than everybody having to buy every piece of equipment imaginable, resources are pooled through mutual aid agreements.

Of course, the agreements have to be worked out to everyone’s satisfaction and, like any negotiation, there can be disagreements — even strong ones — before a final deal is reached. Fairmont and the townships have been negotiating over the ownership of fire trucks, cost of maintenance and other issues.

Fairmont City Councilman Tom Hawkins this week suggested the talks have become strained because the townships feel they are being treated unfairly. While the city has a negotiating team to deal with the issue, Hawkins wanted to inject himself into the process, something that would create two problems. The first is the possible violation of open meeting laws. The second is that Hawkins partially presented himself as a voice for the townships. Yet he is a Fairmont council member, elected to represent the city, not groups with which it is negotiating.

Hawkins may have had good intentions to try to work out an amiable deal, but his approach is wrong. Fairmont has a negotiating team, city staff and a fire chief capable of drafting a deal for the city. The townships likewise have a team to do their bidding.

We do hope everyone is cooperating and treating everyone else with respect at the talks. But city officials are right to put the city’s best interests first, and then proceed to compromise from that strong starting point.

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