Fire station project hits speed bump

Pictured is a Waterloo Fire Truck parked outside the current WFD. (Photo courtesy of

The planned construction of a new fire station for the Waterloo Fire Department has hit a snag.

Waterloo Fire Chief Mark Yeager told the Republic-Times last week that the planned groundbreaking for the new facility on Illinois Avenue will be held up after recent soil compaction tests indicated problems.

Pictured is a Waterloo Fire Truck parked outside the current WFD. (Photo courtesy of
Pictured is a Waterloo Fire Truck parked outside the current WFD. (Photo courtesy of

The site is the location of the former Monroe County Nursing Home, which was demolished in 2011. The county sold the land to the Waterloo Fire Protection District after the home’s demolition and clean-up.

But recent soil borings indicated areas that were filled in the process may not be strong enough to adequately support construction. Soil and debris could not simply be dumped into the former basement areas.  Instead, it had to be reduced to specific size material and then compacted firmly.

“We’re ready to start,” Yeager said. “This is a little hiccup, but we’ll work through it.”

Monroe County Board Chairman Delbert Wittenauer agreed with Yeager, telling the Republic-Times that Monroe County Highway Engineer Aaron Metzger is meeting with representatives of the fire district Wednesday to clarify the matter.

“Our goal was and remains to provide a good, workable solution that satisfies all of our needs,” Wittenauer said. “The property was excess after Oak Hill was opened, and the fire district needs a new facility.  We all agreed, and will work through this.”

Arbitration ruling

In another county matter, the Republic-Times has learned that Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #145 and the county have settled a lengthy contract dispute with the aid of an arbitrator, Professor Mathew Finkin — an internationally renowned labor arbitrator on the University of Illinois faculty.

The key issues were future salary increases and vacation time accrual. The settlement, reached on April 4, affects Monroe County Sheriff’s Department deputies, dispatchers and jailors.

The FOP members have worked without a union contract since Nov. 30, 2011.  After lengthy negotiations, the FOP and county were unable to resolve differences and submitted the issues to arbitration.

The union asked for higher wage increases before finally seeking increases of 2 percent in fiscal year 2011-12, 2.25 percent in 2012-13 and 2.5 percent in 2013-14. The county countered by offering 1 percent, 1.5 percent and 2.5 percent raises for those same years. The arbitrator ruled in the FOP’s favor.

Concerning vacation time for FOP members with 20 years of continuous unbroken service or more, the FOP sought 200 hours per year, while the county offered 176 hours.  The arbitrator found in favor of the county on that issue.

FOP Lodge #145 members expect to see back pay for 2011-12 and 2012-13, and will receive the agreed upon 2.5 percent raise next year.

Monday meeting

The Monroe County Board met in public session at the courthouse on Monday morning.

Monroe County Emergency Management Agency Director Ryan Weber brought good news: the county is receiving two Army surplus Humvees free of cost from the Illinois Law Enforcement Support Office.

The vehicles will be available as long as the county wants them, and will be used for a variety of law enforcement and emergency response uses.

Weber said the vehicles are very capable towing resources and also can be employed as mobile communications bases in times of emergencies.  They will replace the county’s old mobile command post — a former ambulance that is no longer operative and is being sold.

Ongoing problems with the fire suppression sprinkler system at Oak Hill Care Center were discussed again.

Pipes are apparently deteriorating and are cause for long-term concern. The issue stems from the dry character of the system. Sprinkler systems have historically been charged with water at all times. But requirements for newly constructed nursing homes and hospitals have included sprinklers in building attics. Since those spaces are subject to freezing in the winter, they cannot be left charged with water year-round.

Oak Hill maintenance supervisor Dan Borisuk said they are trying to identify the source of the problems and correct them to best ensure the long-term viability of the essential fire protection system. It is fully functional, has passed previous tests, and remains ready to use, he indicated.

The commissioners were also informed of new grounds maintenance efforts at Oak Hill.  Borisuk reported the recent arrival of John Doty to the team.  He brings experience  that includes maintaining golf courses.

“He really knows what he is doing. He brings practical knowledge and a college degree in turf management – and it will make an impact,” Borisuk said.

The board approved reappointments of Arnold Matzenbacher to the Waterloo Fire Protection District; Dennis Kleinschmidt to the Columbia Fire Protection District; Ellery Hawkins to the Valmeyer Fire Protection District; Dave Gunn, Morris Brandt and George Green to the Maeystown Fire Protection District and Ronald Stumpf to the Fountain Water District.

(With additional reporting from Corey Saathoff)

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