Dept. Heads, Council discuss Fire and Police budget cuts - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dept. Heads, Council discuss Fire and Police budget cuts

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

Cuts to the Waterloo Fire and Police department budgets have people talking, and some crying foul.

Tuesday, department heads addressed the city council on how they will execute the cuts, and they said it will mean fewer officers and firefighters on the streets.

Both Fire and Police lost three people to retirements that will not be replaced.

When you're the victim of a crime, or your home is on fire, you want help fast. According to Fire Chief Pat Treloar, now, the wait might be a little bit longer.

"We hope to have very little impact on that area, unfortunately, there will be some increased response times in Station territory six," he said.

Treloar said that in order to make up for the three firefighters they've lost this year, they'll have to occasionally close the Ansborough Ave. facility -- a 'brown-out.'

That's raised some eyebrows in the city council, and caused some controversy, since several city council members live in that neighborhood served by that station.

"On a note for that Engine 6 browning-out, I took offense to the reference that there might have been some political motivation for browning-out Engine 6," Treloar told the city council Tuesday. "That's insulting to me, and insulting to my staff. I think it was a misplaced comment, and it came from council, and I'd like to see that retracted if possible."

"Everything that I said regarding this decision were comments I had put to me by citizens, saying, 'Gee, that looked like a very political move,'" Councilman Steve Schmitt said.

Treloar said it's not politics at play, but geography. He said Station 6 is located in a neighborhood that can be reached by other engine companies, which makes it an easy choice for the brown-outs.

Police are feeling the budget pressure as well.

"The best way for me to describe the loss of the three bodies is that's 6000 hours of work that we're losing," Director of Safety Services Dan Trelka said.

Trelka said the budget cuts are amplifying the pain of lost grant money, and eventually, citizens could feel it too.

"Something that's being done in other cities is they stop responding to traffic crashes if there are no injuries," Trelka said. "We're not there yet, but if we experience further reductions operationally, we've got to make an adjustment."

Trelka said that the downside of this policy change is that it increases the likelihood of missing a drunk driver.

Based on population, Waterloo's first-responder staffing is on-par with other metro areas in the KWWL viewing area, at one police officer per 561 residents, and one firefighter per 647 residents. Dubuque has the lowest ratio, with 532 citizens for one officer, and 651 per firefighter. Waterloo is second, and Cedar Rapids is third with 633 citizens per officers, and 888 per firefighter. Iowa City is last with 853 people per officer, and 1,093 per firefighter. However, other factors do influence staffing needs, such as building density and gang activity.

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