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Waterloo council discusses public safety cuts

WATERLOO — The search for budget cuts has prompted Councilman Steve Schmitt to consider the use of cross-trained public safety officers.

Schmitt broached the idea Saturday as Waterloo City Council members kicked off an all-day budget work session by reviewing the police and fire rescue budgets.

He said he was disappointed city department heads tasked with preparing impact statements on reducing property taxes responded with staff-reduction scenarios.

“How about a little bit more creative and out-of-the-box thinking,” said Schmitt, who said Waterloo should consider the model in Cedar Falls where public safety officers — police officers trained to assist on fire calls — are replacing firefighters.

Schmitt also talked about hiring more volunteer reserve cops and looking at a joint metropolitan area police force.

“Have you looked at other things that will continue to allow you to offer the same level of service to the cities, which is what we all want, but at a lower expense?” Schmitt said.

“We’re going to have less money to work with this year unless we’re going to have an extraordinary tax increase on our citizens, which I’m not interest in supporting,” he said.

Capt. Joe Leibold, who was presenting the police budget, and Fire Chief Pat Treloar said they’d both looked at the public safety officer model but did not believe it was right for Waterloo.

“Our department is extremely busy,” Leibold said. “We handle about six calls for service an hour. We write one report an hour. We make one arrest every two hours.

“My fear would be that our resources, if the fire department was counting on them, would simply not be available,” he added. “My other concern with that is I don’t have an electrician do my plumbing.”

Treloar said Waterloo Fire Rescue said his research into public safety officers found departments using them are either in Michigan or generally smaller than Waterloo. Larger Iowa cities, including Dubuque, Sioux City and Davenport, do not use cross-trained police officers on fire calls.

Waterloo also provides advance life support ambulance services, which Cedar Falls does not, Treloar added.

Councilman Pat Morrissey was not in favor of joint public safety officers.

“I’m against cross-training from everything I’ve ever read,” Morrissey said. “We have a large community that needs to have the dedicated people like you and (Police Chief Dan) Trelka have put together.”

The discussion came as council members began departmental budget reviews, which included impact statements on both 2.5 percent and 5 percent tax cut scenarios. A drop in the tax base coupled with potential lost state revenue has the city looking at either budget cuts or a property tax increase for the coming fiscal years.(tncms-asset)5f903740-ff9b-11e7-b490-00163ec2aa77[1](/tncms-asset)

Liebold said a 2.5 percent cut in the police tax asking likely would mean cutting seven of the department’s 123 sworn officers, which would eliminate the Violent Crimes Apprehension Team and Safe Streets Task Force.

“They have proven extremely successful,” Liebold said of those units. “To date, almost 400 firearms (have been) taken out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. They’ve prevented shootings. … They are really dialed into the criminal culture at the street level.”

A 5 percent cut would cause the city to lose grant funding and result in the loss of 12 to 15 officers.

Treloar said further cuts to Waterloo Fire Rescue would lead to longer average response times for a department that is currently lagging about 30 seconds behind its four-minute average response goal.

“At the 2.5 percent we’re going to realize increased station closures,” said Treloar, adding a 5 percent cut likely would mean a permanent closure of Station No. 6 at Ansborough Avenue and Dixon Drive.

Council members also reviewed the Leisure Services Commission budget before breaking for lunch.

Leisure Services Director Paul Huting said the department was already losing revenue next year based on a new lease with the Waterloo Black Hawks at Young Arena and a continued decline in golf revenue and rounds played.

Councilwoman Margaret Klein questioned whether it was time for the city to consider selling one of its three golf courses and possibly shutting down one of its two swimming pools.

Council members are scheduled to continue reviewing departmental budgets Monday and Thursday. A public hearing to adopt a final budget and tax rate is tentatively slated for March 6.

PHOTOS/VIDEO: Guilty, innocent, undecided: Two verdicts in Logan Avenue murder case

WATERLOO – Doncorrion Spates turned and attempted to leave the courtroom Friday afternoon after hearing a jury found him guilty of first-degree murder in the July 2016 shooting death of Otavious Brown.

Deputies turned the 17-year-old Waterloo resident around as Judge Brad Harris read the remainder of the verdict, which found him guilty of attempted murder in the shooting of Dewon Campbell Jr. and intimidation with a weapon.

Moments later, there was a quick burst of applause when the judge announced that jurors had acquitted co-defendant Shavondes Martin, 22, of all counts.

Jurors were still unable to reach a verdict for charges on Armand Rollins, 17, and they are expected to return to the courthouse Monday to continue deliberations.

The unusual move to take some of the verdicts before deliberations were complete came as one of the jurors is scheduled to depart on vacation over the weekend. Attorneys for Rollins agreed to allow a substitute juror — who hasn’t been in discussions with the rest of the jury but remained under admonition since closing arguments — to rejoin the panel when they return Monday.(tncms-asset)d0c29dd4-0dee-11e8-afee-00163ec2aa77[1](/tncms-asset)

The jury, which began deliberations Tuesday following a week of testimony, initially indicated they were having trouble reaching a consensus on Thursday. Further indications of complications Friday afternoon triggered a series of conferences between the court and attorneys, but ultimately jurors said they had reached verdicts for one, and then two, of the defendants.

Following the verdict, a family member of Spates left the courtroom and began screaming in the hallway. Spates began muttering as Harris informed him about his appeal rights and was hustled out of the courtroom by deputies.(tncms-asset)9ce27bc8-0def-11e8-83b6-00163ec2aa77[2](/tncms-asset)

Prosecutors said Spates, Martin and Rollins were in a SUV and opened fire on a group of people outside 817 Logan Ave. on July 17, 2016. Brown, 21, was struck in the back and later died at the hospital.

A bullet struck Dewon Campbell Jr. in the side, and Aundrey Roberts Jr. was shot in the foot. Both survived.

The SUV driver, Jacques Williamson, earlier pleaded to lesser charges. He testified the three defendants threatened him at gunpoint and forced him to drive past the Logan Avenue address. Williamson, who denied shooting, said Martin was in the front seat and Spates and Rollins were in the backseat.

Testimony in the trial began Jan. 29.

Waterloo philanthropist Pauline Barrett has passed away

WATERLOO — Waterloo has lost one of its most generous residents.

Pauline Barrett, whose numerous large financial donations helped a wide array of foundations, causes and programs throughout the Cedar Valley, died at home Friday at the age of 96.

“We are awfully sad about the passing of one of our kindest philanthropists,” said Pam Delagardelle, president and CEO of UnityPoint Health-Allen Hospital. “I would say just about everybody in the Cedar Valley has benefited from her generosity.

“We’ve been grateful to Pauline for her continued and compassionate support,” she said. “Because of it, we have been able to improve the way we provide care to the community.”

Allen Hospital and Allen College were major recipients of Barrett’s donations, including a $5 million donation to a capital campaign that in 2009 helped the hospital open the $47 million Pauline Barrett Pavilion, including an emergency department and heart and vascular center.

“It was one of the largest private donations in Cedar Valley history at the time,” Delagardelle said.

Barrett also donated to Allen College, which named Barrett Forum in her honor, and more recently donated $1.5 million to help create a neonatal intensive care unit at the hospital.

But Barrett’s impact was felt throughout the community. She donated to educational, health and youth causes including the Schindler Education Center, Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center, a Russell Hall addition and scholarship programs at the University of Northern Iowa.

The YWCA, Boys and Girls Club, United Way, Grout Museum, Covenant Foundation, Cedar Valley Symphony, Northeast Iowa Food Bank, Waterloo Schools Foundation, Job Foundation, Grin and Grow, Visiting Nurses, Cedar Valley Hospice, First Presbyterian Church in Waterloo and others also received her support.

“It’s truly been an honor to know her personally and work with her over the years,” said Kaye Englin, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa, which will continue to make donations through the Pauline R. Barrett Endowment Fund.

“She and her husband found so much joy in giving back to our community and giving back in so many different ways,” Englin said. “When we met with her it was always so hard for her to decide because she had so many charities she wanted to support.”

Barrett was raised on a farm near Fort Dodge and moved to Waterloo by herself in 1943. She landed a job at Rath Packing Co., where she worked 17 years as an executive secretary for top officers.

In 1954, she married Dr. Sterling “Arch” Barrett, an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist in Waterloo. He passed away in 1981.

When Barrett was selected as a Courier Eight over 80 Award recipient in 2012, she said supporting others was something she learned as a child.

“I grew up in a very caring farming family,” she said at the time. “Then, I worked for my room and board to go to business college and was learning all the time.”

Despite being an avid worldwide traveler, Barrett also said the Cedar Valley compared favorably with any place she had visited.

“I like Iowa. We have good people,” she said. “But if I lived someplace else, I’d find them nice too.”

Services for Barrett will be at 10:30 a.m. Friday at First Presbyterian Church with burial in Waterloo Memorial Park Cemetery. Visitation will be from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday at Hagarty-Waychoff-Grarup Funeral Service on West Ridgeway Avenue, and at the church for an hour before services on Friday.

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Israel strikes Syria, downs Iranian drone, as F-16 crashes

JERUSALEM — In its most serious engagement in neighboring Syria since fighting there began in 2011, Israel shot down an infiltrating Iranian drone Saturday and struck Iranian targets deep in Syria before one of its own jets was downed.

The sudden escalation offers what could be a harbinger of what lies ahead as the Syrian fighting winds down and an emboldened Iran establishes a military presence that Israel vows it will never accept.

Israel has issued several stern warnings of late about the increased Iranian involvement along its border in Syria and Lebanon. The Israeli Cabinet just held a meeting near the Syrian border to highlight the new threats, which it attributes to Iran’s growing confidence given the success of the government of Bashar Assad in the Syrian civil war thanks to their support.

Israel called the drone infiltration a “severe and irregular violation of Israeli sovereignty” and warned that Iran would be held accountable for its meddling, raising the specter of a larger confrontation in an area that has remained largely stable since a monthlong war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006.

“This is a serious Iranian attack on Israeli territory. Iran is dragging the region into an adventure in which it doesn’t know how it will end,” Israel’s chief military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, said in a special statement. “Whoever is responsible for this incident is the one who will pay the price.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman convened the top brass at military headquarters in Tel Aviv for long hours of emergency consultations throughout the Jewish Sabbath to discuss their next steps.

Netanyahu said he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin and vowed to strike back hard.

“Iran seeks to use Syrian territory to attack Israel for its professed goal of destroying Israel,” he said. “Israel holds Iran and its Syrian host responsible for today’s aggression. We will continue to do whatever is necessary to protect our sovereignty and our security.”

Israel also appealed to the United Nations Security Council to denounce Iran’s aggression and “put an immediate end to Iranian provocations.”

Israel would not confirm whether its aircraft was actually shot down by enemy fire, which would mark the first such instance for Israel since 1982 during the first Lebanon war.

Israel fears Iran could use Syrian territory to stage attacks or create a land corridor from Iran to Lebanon that could allow it to transfer weapons more easily to Hezbollah — Lebanon’s Iranian-backed political party and militant group sworn to Israel’s destruction. Though Israel has largely stayed out of the Syrian conflict, it has struck weapons convoys destined for Hezbollah — which is fighting alongside Syrian forces — almost 100 times since 2012.

But Israel has refrained from striking Iranian sites directly. Syria has also repeatedly said it will respond to Israeli airstrikes but has rarely returned fire. Both of those trends came to an abrupt end Saturday as a rapid escalation played out in the early morning hours.

At dawn, Israel said it shot down an Iranian unmanned aircraft that penetrated its airspace and then destroyed the Iranian site in central Syria that it said launched it. Upon their return, Israel’s jets came under heavy Syrian anti-aircraft fire and the pilots of one of the F-16s had to eject and the plane crashed in northern Israel. One pilot was seriously wounded and the other one lightly.

In subsequent attacks, the Israeli military said it struck four additional Iranian positions and eight Syrian sites, causing significant damage. The Israeli jets again faced a heavy barrage of anti-aircraft missiles but returned home safely, as large explosions were reported in Syria and warning sirens blared in northern Israel.

Israel says the strikes destroyed the main command and control bunker of the Syrian military and marked its most devastating assault against Syria in decades.

Iran denied Israel’s shooting down of a drone, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasem calling the account “ridiculous,” while the joint operations room for the Syrian military and its allies insisted the drone had not violated Israeli airspace and was on a regular mission gathering intelligence on Islamic State militants.

Regardless, Hezbollah said Saturday’s developments signaled a “new strategic phase” in engaging Israel, which has been mostly off the guerrilla group’s radar as it has been knee-deep in the fighting in Syria.

Meanwhile, four more Turkish soldiers have been killed in northern Syria, the Turkish military announced late Saturday, bringing the day’s death toll to 11 in what has been the most lethal day since Ankara’s offensive on Syrian Kurdish militia began.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced earlier that a military helicopter was “downed” in the Afrin operation. Speaking in Istanbul, Erdogan didn’t mention by name the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, but hinted they were to blame. The country’s prime minister walked back on the comments soon after, saying the cause of the helicopter’s crash was not yet clear and investigations were ongoing.