Last week, the Bettendorf City Council took steps to adjust its budget for the revenue losses due to the coronavirus-damaged economy.
The council put off a raft of capital improvement projects and equipment purchases, shut down travel and closed Splash Landing for the season, among other steps.
It also put off decisions about what to do with the city-owned Life Fitness Center and the hiring of six additional firefighters. As City Administrator Decker Ploehn said in a video posted to the city’s Facebook page, these are decisions that will be revisited this fall.
Even though final decisions were delayed, it looks like the council is standing firm on the idea of hiring these firefighters, beginning in October.
That's a good thing. We understand the reticence among some in the community to close the Life Fitness Center. But we believe the council is correct to put greater emphasis on ensuring that the six firefighters get hired – and soon.
Addition of the six additional personnel means the Surrey Heights fire station, which serves the northeastern part of the city, will be fully staffed. As a result, the other stations will be fully staffed, too. Currently, in some situations, there can be coverage gaps.
There are a number of unknowns at this point, among them a city application for a federal grant that would help with the funding of the firefighters. Another is the exact extent of the revenue losses.
Still, we'd like to add our voice to a resident who spoke to the council last week and put it simply: "Lives are at stake."
Our sense is that the council understands the need to hire these firefighters quickly. After all, it approved a budget with a property tax increase to pay for them.
When these matters come again before the council this fall, we urge aldermen to follow through and put public safety first.
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