By Ken Ross
As the result of two days of special budget meetings this week, the Cherokee City Council decided to eliminate positions from the fire department in a cost saving move.
The two full-time driver/dispatchers will be eliminated and the part-time fire chief will be replaced by a full-time chief who will also take over the contracted part-time position of code enforcement.
The council also decided to have the responsibilities of the full-time recreation coordinator position taken over by expanding the hours of administrative assistant Connie Ladwig from 20 to 40 and expanding the hours of community center director Linda Peterson from 35 to 40 hours.
Ron Strickland, city administrator, said the council has been pondering the change at the fire department for years.
"This was a difficult decision for everyone," Strickland said. He said the council members were in agreement on the matter although Doug Woods and Ron Johnson abstained from the vote because of a conflict of interest. The vote was 3 to 0 for eliminating the position.
"We have an outstanding volunteer fire department. I'm sure they will step up to the bat," Strickland said.
The full-time fire chief position will be advertised. Strickland said the present chief and drivers are welcome to apply for the position.
The changes in fire department personnel will take place at the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1.
The changes in the rec department will take place immediately because there was a recent vacancy of the recreation director. Ladwig will continue to carry out duties as administrative assistant and also have duties as recreation coordinator under department head Duane Mummert.
Ladwig is scheduled for training next month as a certified pool operator. Water department employee Luke Klashen will also receive this training to serve as backup.
The changes in the rec department are being undertaken on a trial basis and a reevaluation of the recreation needs for the city will take place in June.
Strickland said that the reductions in the city's budget should make the budget sound and no further personnel reductions are anticipated for the 2006/07 fiscal year.
The reduced or eliminated positions are paid for from the city's general fund, with the revenue coming from property tax in an amount limited by state law. The sewer and water departments are paid for through fees which are intended to pay for this service and cannot be used for other purposes. Capital projects are sometimes paid for through general obligations bonds. The city is near capacity on the amount of general obligation debt it can legally acquire.