WATERLOO — Personnel issues took center stage as the Waterloo City Council kicked off a budget review process Wednesday.
Waterloo Fire Rescue is hoping to avoid losing a firefighter when grant funding for the position expires this year.
The central garage is looking to hire another mechanic to address a massive backlog in maintenance on the city’s fire trucks and equipment.
Council members are being asked to hire a full-time human resources director to fill a void created when Suzy Schares, who had served both in that role and as city clerk, resigned last year.
And the Waterloo Public Library, which didn’t ask for more tax support, warned city leaders it will lose its accreditation in three years if its budget to buy books and other materials doesn’t increase substantially in the future.
While most department heads generally submitted proposed budgets for the coming fiscal year which kept current staffing levels and only accounted for increases in contractual wage and benefit changes, the review process provided a chance for them to lobby for additional changes.
Fire Chief Pat Treloar said his request for tax support to keep the position funded with a federal Staffing Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant was really to maintain the status quo.
“With the current staffing level we are at, we cannot keep Station No. 6 open every day of the year,” Treloar said. “We come pretty close.”
But Councilmen Steve Schmitt and Bruce Jacobs both pressed Treloar on why the department hasn’t looked to cut costs by using part-time, paid on-call volunteers or cross-trained police officers to help support fire staffing levels.
“It seems to work in other communities,” Schmitt said. “It’s certainly more inexpensive.”
Treloar said none of the 10 largest fire departments in the state utilize those measures, noting Waterloo was unique in some cases because it provides ambulance services as well with its cross-trained staff.
“In my opinion they wouldn’t work here for the city of Waterloo,” he said. “With our size, our call volume, I don’t think it’s a path we want to go down.”
Library Director Steven Nielsen said he wasn’t asking to boost the library’s $159,000 materials budget next year based on directions to hold the line. But he said the amount, along with the library’s staffing level and overall collection, rank last out of Iowa’s 10 largest municipal libraries.
“If they did accreditation this year we would lose it,” Nielsen said, referring to the process which takes place every three years.
“That scares me tremendously,” he added. “We’re either going to have to get more money from the city, or I’m going to have to write some really good grants.”
Council members met for more than four hours to hear budget presentations from the city attorney, code enforcement, human resources, central garage, human rights, library, fire and airport.
They are scheduled to review other departmental budgets starting at 10 a.m. Saturday in a special meeting at the Waterloo Center for the Arts.