070516ho-Chris-Shimp

Chris Shimp

WATERLOO — An election, timing and budget concerns pulled the rug out from under a mechanic who’d been offered a job with the city.

Waterloo City Council members voted 4-3 Monday to reject the appointment of Jonathan Oehlerich to help service and repair the city’s vehicle fleet.

Council members had voted last year to approve the additional position as part of this fiscal year’s budget. Then they voted 4-0 Aug. 28 to authorize the Human Resources Department to use a civil service process and appoint the top candidate.

Oehlerich was offered the job only to see it rejected when council members Margaret Klein and Chris Shimp, who were elected in November and just took office in January, joined holdover council members Steve Schmitt and Bruce Jacobs to turn it down.

Council members Jerome Amos Jr., Sharon Juon and Pat Morrissey voted to complete the hire.

“I’m just concerned about the state of our budget and adding full-time positions at this moment,” Klein said. “This is an expansion of personnel. It is not to replace someone who has retired. We are growing a department.”

Jacobs said the city should wait to complete its upcoming budget deliberations before filling the post.

“I don’t know why we couldn’t just wait a couple months to get past the budget season so we know how we’re going to pay for it before we obligate ourselves to another $84,000 position,” he said.

Morrissey countered that the position was already in the budget.

“We aren’t adding any money to the budget,” he said. “We are just finally filling this position for the benefit of public works and being able to do their job.”

Human Resources Director Lance Dunn said the previous council had already authorized extending the job offer. “Basically you’re approving the individual when it comes to this time,” he said.

But Klein said she didn’t agree with being obligated to follow a previous council’s vote.

“I have no problem with the process,” she said. “I just have a problem having it suggested that it is inevitable and I have to vote one way.”

Mayor Quentin Hart said situations are going to come up when issues addressed before an election are completed by new council members.

“Yeah, you’re probably voting on stuff that was prior to you getting here,” he said. “But this wasn’t anything that was done in the dark.”

Interim Public Works Director Sandie Greco said the position would have become the ninth mechanic servicing some 430 vehicles in the city fleet. It was primarily funded with road use tax, sanitation and sewer funds, not property taxes.

“We have a backload right now and it’s not because they’re not working eight-hour days,” she said.

Jacobs said the city should discuss outsourcing vehicle maintenance or hiring part-time personnel during the pending budget discussions.

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Waterloo City Reporter

Waterloo city reporter for the Courier

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