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Waterloo City Council approves residency policy amendment for fire rescue

UPDATE: (Jan. 27, 2020) - Waterloo City Council motions and passes the change in residency policy, 6-1.

The new policy would allow Waterloo Fire Rescue personnel to live 60 miles outside city limits.

"I don't think we can assume that if we set it out farther that our new hires are going to come and not want to live in the City of Waterloo," Waterloo Fire Chief Pat Treloar said. "We are going to encourage them to, even like we do right now even at the 10 mile radius."

WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) - Waterloo Fire Chief Pat Treloar addressed the council Monday evening during the council work session to revise the residency policy for critical employees.

Critical employees include department heads, sworn police and firefighters. The proximity of residency for these specific Waterloo employees is currently set at 10 miles from Waterloo City Hall. This ruling is for critical employees to repsond to emergency an emergency call basis.

The proposed change by Fire Chief Pat Treloar was to move the proximity to 60 miles. This change would stretch to Marshalltown, Oelwein and Cedar Rapids.

Similar cities like Cedar Falls and Urbandale do not have this type of residence policy. Chief Treloar also compared other cities with a simlar residence policy. The City of Des Moines, West Des Moines and Council Bluffs have proximity of 60 miles, while Cedar Rapids has a proximity of 50 miles.

The fire department wants this change to battle low recruitment numbers. The proposal showed firefighter recruitment in Waterloo was down from the last recruitment process done about two years ago. Chief Treloar says they received 150 applicants when normally they get more than 300.

Chief Treloar explains the proximity for where firefighters can live is a possible solution for recruitment numbers. He says this is one of the competing factors when hiring skilled workers.

"The recruitment numbers are down, certainly not all blamed on the residency policy I am not implying that, but I think it's one element that we should look at," says Chief Treloar.

Ward 1 Councilperson Margaret Klein also spoke up saying this would turn firefighters away from living in Waterloo.

"Our ultimate goal, of course, is to have everyone want to live here and make this Waterloo, our Waterloo," says Klein.

Chief Treloar clarified that he does not suspect firefighters to leave Waterloo because of this change, and he does in fact want people to stay and live in Waterloo.

"I don't want anyone to misconstrue what I'm saying, I want people living in Waterloo," says Chief Treloar. "I just think that the way the residency policy is set right now and what its purpose was is not serving the department that I'm chief of."

There was concern voices that the expansion may not apply to every emergency department. Mayor Hart says the city has to be careful in handling the limit because it could delay emergency response.

There has been no official action taken, it was only discussed during last night's city council work session. Chief Treloar is looking to evaluate what other departments needed to address the possible change.

The evaluation would take a look at what other emergency departments would prefer in distance for the residence change.

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Vinny Lowerre

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