Mediator Named in Volunteer Firefighter, Berkeley County Dispute
The upcoming negotiations between volunteer firefighters and Berkeley County officials in West Virginia will be overseen by a retired court judge. The dispute involves revisions regarding an agreement that would make it possible for the paid firefighter to be placed at the volunteer stations. Berkeley County currently has 18 paid firefighter positions as part of what the state has designated as a “fire prevention unit.”
According to Berkeley County Administrator Alan Davis, Judge Christopher Wilkes offered his services and he will not charge the county for the mediation. David further explained that Wilkes did so because the issue is a matter of public safety. Wilkes retired in 2019 after 25 years of service on the bench.
The mediation is tentatively set for April.
In addition to county officials and representatives of the volunteers, the state's first commission will be sending two members to help facilitate the dispute if they are needed.
According to the fire commission, the disagreement regarding the MOU must be resolved and approved by the commission. Until a new agreement is finalized and approved, county and volunteer fire department officials will operate under previous operating agreements that the Berkeley County Council had terminated about a year ago. The paid firefighters who had been removed due to the impasse were returned earlier in February.
The county-paid firefighting staff includes seven grant-funded positions at the Baker Heights Volunteer Fire Department. There is round-the-clock paid staffing at that department. County-paid staffing is also stationed during the week at the county’s other four volunteer departments.