Charles City, Iowa – Eric Whipple has been a firefighter for more than 10 years.
Now, he’s the Chief of the Charles City Fire Department, but he’s also the bearer of bad news.
“The city has decided to move some of our current firefighters to different departments to try to alleviate some of the workers comp and pension,” said Whipple.
“A pretty high percentage rate the city has to pay for pensions through the state for each of us firefighters. That percentage is almost 31% that the city has to pay,” said Whipple.
So now, the current staff of six in the Charles City Fire Department is being reduced to four.
“It worries me a little bit because whenever you lose staff, you have to make a lot of – especially when you cut your staff by 50 percent – you have to make a lot of changes,” said Whipple.
He adds that it’s been a difficult decision, but one positive is the affected firefighters are not losing their jobs.
They’re being moved to different departments within the community.
Still, neighbors worry having fewer firefighters will reduce the Charles City department’s ability to respond to fires.
Lifelong resident Jennifer Beans says the cuts are upsetting.
“In my opinion there should, you can always make cuts in places we all have done it cutting the cable bill or whatever but there’s certain things you don’t cut, your safety and your families safety is a huge thing,” said Bean.
She hopes this becomes an awakening for city leaders that something in the budget needs to be fixed.
“Look at the budget, look at it real, with a fine tooth comb, we all do it personally in our own lives,” said Bean.
Until then, Whipple says he and his remaining crew will do everything they can keep to keep Jennifer and all her neighbors safe.
“Just making that things remain smooth and in the transitions and make sure we are able to keep our services or service levels at least at a constant.”