Man unemployed after city council throws a wrench in already-set - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Man unemployed after city council throws a wrench in already-set plan

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Waterloo City Council threw a wrench in already-set plans during Monday night's meeting.

What should have been a simple new hire approval turned into a heated debate when newly-elected council member, Margaret Klein, questioned the addition of a full-time city mechanic position that had already been approved in last year's budget.

"I have no problem with the process. I just have a problem with having it suggested that this is inevitable and that I have to vote one way. Here is another thing I have a problem with, the money that we had last year, we may not have this coming year. We have to be responsible," said Klein to the council.

Veteran council members, Jerome Amos and Pat Morrissey, came to the defense of the new position saying it was researched, approved as a necessity for the department, and the salary was budgeted for.

"Councilwoman Klein, this is in no way expanding anything. It is taking care of business that the City of Waterloo needs to take care of that has not been taken care of for years. During these talks, we talked about whether we could privatize this, we talked about part-time people," said Councilman Pat Morrissey.

Ultimately, the approval of the new employee was voted down by Klein, newly-elected Chris Shimp and veteran council members, Steve Schmitt and Bruce Jacobs.

Tuesday, KWWL got an inside look at Waterloo's central garage.

With a full garage and a long list of snow plows, dump trucks, city vehicles, and fire engines needing the attention of 8 mechanics, "We are pretty much overwhelmed every night," said Mike Heichel, who is one of two night-shift mechanics.

Along with the heavy equipment repairs Heichel is in charge of, it's almost daily that equipment comes in to the garage that needs to be out the door ASAP.

"Garbage trucks break down in the middle of the day, we have to get them going. That makes the equipment I am responsible for working on at night get pushed back. We get to it when we get to it.  We have to get the priorities done first," said Heichel.

With many of the 430 pieces of equipment the garage maintains essential to public safety, Public Works Director Sandie Greco says the addition of another mechanic is imperative.

"We are doing the best we can now. With the addition of another person, it would make a big difference," said Greco.

Greco says it could mean regular maintenance, like oil changes, don't get pushed aside.

"If one of us gets sick or has a medical issue, then we are short-handed; just makes it that much harder to get caught up," said Heichel.

KWWL spoke with the mechanic who was suppose to start this week pending the council's approval.

He says his life has been flipped upside-down. After investing in extra training for the job and giving notice at his last job, he is now unemployed.

Councilwoman Klein says her alternative would be to look into outsourcing some of the work.

When asked if other jobs would potentially be on the chopping block because of her budget concerns, she said, "I hope not."

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