Budget Cuts to Close Iowa Fire Station Periodically

Waterloo Fire Station 6 will be closed from time to time this summer.

May 07--WATERLOO -- Budget cuts will cause a fire station on the city's southwest side to shut down periodically this summer.

Waterloo Fire Rescue is planning temporary closures of Fire Station No. 6, at Ansborough Avenue and Dixon Drive, after City Council members adopted a budget in March eliminating three firefighter positions.

Pat Treloar, chief of fire services, said the "brownouts" would begin July 1 and would only occur when the department lacks enough staff to man its equipment citywide. He projects the station will be closed at least 10 days in July.

"When we're short (staff) we're going to have to take an apparatus out of service," Treloar said. "None of the options were that great, but we're going to try to provide the best possible service with the budget we've been provided."

Staff chose to take the Station No. 6 engine out of service after also considering taking an engine or the city's only ladder truck -- both at Station No. 1 downtown -- off line.

"The fire call volume is lower (at Station No. 6)," Treloar said. "We have some of the newest building stock in the city out in that area."

The territory served by Station No. 6 can be served relatively easily by Station No. 4, at Ansborough and University avenues, or Station No. 2, on La Porte Road in the Crossroads Center area, he added.

"I would anticipate call times to increase in Station 6's territory," Treloar said. "But the entire city will be affected."

When equipment from Stations No. 2 or 4 respond in the Station No. 6 area, other stations would be required to respond if another emergency occurs in the vacated engine company's territory.

This is not the first time Station No. 6 has been closed due to budget cuts. The station closed from Dec. 31, 1992, when nine firefighters were laid off, and didn't reopen until June 1997.

City Council members Steve Schmitt, Tom Lind, Carolyn Cole and David Jones voted to approve a budget eliminating three police and three firefighter positions. Mayor Buck Clark and councilmen Pat Morrissey, Quentin Hart and Ron Welper opposed that decision.

"I continue to be disappointed in the budget that was adopted and the cuts in public safety, both police and fire, which were not a good decision," Clark said. "But the decision was made, and we have to move forward in the best interest of the city."

Clark supported Waterloo Fire Rescue's decision on how to handle the cuts. "I wouldn't pretend to dictate to the fire department how to run their department," he said.

Treloar noted Waterloo Fire Rescue had 121 sworn and six civilian staff in 1998 but will have only 105 sworn and 3.5 civilian positions starting July 1. The department's overtime budget has been cut and frozen at $69,000, which limits the ability to bring in firefighters to cover for others who are sick, injured, on military leave or on vacation.

The department can't use up its entire overtime budget covering for staffing shortages in July and August. Treloar said Station No. 6 may not be closed as often in August, depending on how the schedule pans out.

"It's a temporary thing right now," he said. "We're going to do it for July and August and see how its going operationally, then re-evaluate our overtime budget at the end of August."

The police department is dealing with the loss of three officers by eliminating one patrol position, merging the Ward 10 patrol area in Church Row with another ward and cutting one of the five officers from its Violent Crime Apprehension Team.

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