Mail merge

Keller and Westlake let fire service merger deal expire

Keller and Westlake officials decided to let an interlocal agreement involving a temporary fire department merger expire on Aug. 1.

As of April 1, 2021, Westlake Fire Chief Richard Whitten has served as the Keller Fire Department’s Acting Chief as the two towns considered merging their departments. The goal was to improve services and expand regional response capabilities, according to an Aug. 4 town of Keller newsletter.

Keller saw improvements from this merger, according to the newsletter. A feasibility study by Matrix Consulting Group determined that the merger would be effective and suggested a four-year phased approach to merging the two departments, according to the bulletin.

Keller’s Director of Human Resources, Marcia Reyna, and City Manager Mark Hafner answered questions from Community Impact Journal by email.

“Throughout this 16-month agreement, we have removed borders between the two cities to serve our residents and achieved better response times,” the email reads. “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 the addition of new members to Westlake City Council and the resignation of Westlake’s city manager last month, Hafner said in the newsletter that now was not the right time to merge.

Keller Deputy Fire Chief Shane Gainer is acting fire chief as the human resources department conducts a nationwide search for the city’s next fire chiefaccording to Reyna and Hafner.

In the short term, the main cost difference for the town of Keller is the salary of the new fire chief, according to Reyna and Hafner.

Westlake City Council has decided to hold discussions on the fire service amalgamation 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 from 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. Northeast Tarrant Communications Center, based in Keller, serves Keller, Westlake, Southlake and Colleyville. Additionally, the City of Westlake has a contract with the Keller Police Department to provide policing and animal control services.