Waterloo mayor on the mend

Waterloo Mayor Tom Smith

Last Monday, the Waterloo City Council conducted its first regular meeting since Mayor Tom Smith was hospitalized following a stroke. 

Alderman Clyde Heller, the most senior member of the council, was appointed the city’s mayor pro-tem during an emergency meeting held late last month.  

“I’m kind of wearing both hats right now,” said Heller, referencing his duties as both alderman and mayor.

The city’s code of ordinance states that “during a temporary absence or disability of the mayor which incapacitates him from the performance of his duties but does not create a vacancy in the office, the mayor shall appoint one of the aldermen, and if he cannot, the aldermen shall appoint one of its members to act as mayor pro-tem. The mayor pro-tem, during this absence or disability, shall perform his duties and possess all the rights and powers of the mayor. The mayor may appoint an alderman to administer affairs of the city with the advice and consent of the city council whenever the city council considers it necessary and expedient.”

Heller said he has not been given any indication as to how long the 69-year-old Smith might be away from his position, adding he receives updates straight from the family and does not attempt to contact him about city business.

“I feel he needs to focus on recovery,” Heller said.

Tom’s daughter Kim Everett posted Thursday evening on Facebook that her father has been moved out of the intensive care unit at the hospital and is “amazing doctors daily” while resuming therapy.

“We talked to dad today and he asked to let everyone know how grateful he is for your thoughts and prayers and appreciates all the calls and texts,” Everett posted. “He is looking forward to seeing you all. While there is still a journey ahead, we are all strengthened by your prayers.”

During the June 6 council meeting, Waterloo Director of Public Works Tim Birk said work on Morrison Avenue was slated to start soon. 

In the report of special committees, Alderman Steve Notheisen said the city’s gas committee recently made a 15 percent hedge purchase of natural gas futures. This is in addition to an 18 percent hedge with storage capacity.

“Much like before we decided to buy natural gas futures due to the instability of pricing, we have seen dramatic spikes in natural gas over the last six months and the war in Ukraine and the countries that have been dependent on Russia for their natural gas,” Notheisen explained, adding “it probably will get worse as we approach winter.” 

Notheisen went on to say that President  Biden has made a commitment to increase natural gas exports by 50 percent, and that will likely create a shortage in the U.S. 

“The market is very unstable and in an attempt to protect the city and our gas customers from potentially extraordinary price spikes, the committee of the mayor pro-tem, the utility director and I as gas chairman made the decision to be proactive,” Notheisen told the Republic-Times and said in the meeting that “most of the stuff we bought was in the 8s.” 

Notheisen said that unfortunately, the natural gas game is sort of a no-win scenario.

“We would rather be wrong and have the price of gas come down, but if the prices spike like they did in February 2011, we are somewhat protected,” he said.

On a separate note, Notheisen recently confirmed with the Republic-Times that although his current term expires May 1, 2023, he will be resigning from the council later this year – meaning an appointment will be needed to fill his seat prior to the municipal election. 

“My 19-plus years as alderman has been a big part of my life,” Notheisen said.

Also during the meeting, the council officially approved the addition of a fourth sergeant position at the Waterloo Police Department. 

This comes following a committee meeting on the matter, and after the matter was brought up during a February council meeting. 

WPD Sgt. Eric Zaber addressed the mayor and council members then about past and present unsuccessful attempts to have longtime officer Cliff Haddick promoted to sergeant. 

The WPD currently has three sergeants on its force: Zaber, Trin Daws and Dave Midkiff. 

Based on a 12-hour scheduling setup, there are four patrol squads within the department and one sergeant per squad would be ideal, Waterloo Police Chief Jeff Prosise said then.

This fourth WPD sergeant is expected to be appointed on June 20.

While Zaber remains on the force, he told the Republic-Times recently that he is currently on self-requested leave from his duties with the WPD for an undetermined amount of time. 

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