WAVERLY — At an uncertain time in Waverly Fire and Rescue’s history, the City of Waverly’s Emergency Services Committee is welcoming a new leader.
As of the Feb. 28 Waverly City Council meeting, the new emergency services coordinator is Robin Hoffman, who has served with Waverly Fire and Rescue for 10 years and was Waverly School District 145’s business manager for 23 years before retiring last year.
Waverly Mayor Bill Gerdes recommended Hoffman fill the role after previous emergency services coordinator and current Waverly City Council member Aaron Hummel announced his plans to resign from the position.
“Wearing multiple hats can present some challenges, and this will allow me to focus my efforts as a council member,” Hummel said in a text message.
Hummel also said Hoffman was the “right guy” for the role.
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“My main purpose for accepting this position after being appointed by the city council is to try to do what’s best for the citizens of Waverly and also for citizens in the Waverly Rural Fire District, as far as the future of the fire district, fire service and medical service,” Hoffman said.
The committee operates similarly to other City of Waverly committees, such as the Parks & Recreation committee and the Waverly Planning Commission. Its other members are Disaster Preparedness Manager Terry Spoor, Severe Weather Team Leader Nathan Vidlak, Waverly Fire Chief Jared Rains, Waverly Rural Fire District President Dick Dames and Waverly City Council member Dave Nielson.
Hoffman said Waverly Fire and Rescue faces several challenges today. Waverly continues to grow, which drives up the number of calls the fire department receives, while fire departments struggle to find volunteers.
Lincoln Fire and Rescue is having staffing issues of its own, Hoffman said, which means the advanced life support services that Waverly contracts from that department are sometimes unreliable. He said Waverly Fire and Rescue has more often been calling Southeast Fire & Rescue for its advanced life support needs.
“My main concern is … figuring out a way that we can have the advanced life support service on calls when we need it, so that we’re not sitting there, not able to provide the service that we want to provide,” Hoffman said.
There have also been discussions recently between Gerdes and the Waverly Rural Fire District Board about merging into a singular suburban fire district. Under a suburban fire district configuration, the city’s involvement with the fire department would be erased while creating one tax base including Waverly and the 90-plus square miles of land that make up the rural fire district.
The discussions are preliminary, although Gerdes and Dames have met with attorneys and leaders of other fire departments that have made the switch to a suburban fire district, such as the Valley Fire Department.
The formation of a suburban fire district could make paying for a new fire station easier, as Waverly’s and the rural fire district’s tax bases would become one. Waverly Fire and Rescue members have been calling for a new fire station to replace the cramped and aging facility that the department has used since the 1970s.
Hoffman said he doesn’t know enough about how a transition to a suburban fire district would affect Waverly Fire and Rescue’s operations to say whether he is in support of the change or not.
“I guess right now, we probably have more questions than we have answers,” Hoffman said. “It’s going to be uncharted ground.”
In other City of Waverly news, city council member Abbey Pascoe said at the Feb. 28 council meeting that she testified in front of the Nebraska Legislature’s Transportation and Telecommunications Committee in support of Legislative Bill 721.
The bill would designate $25 million of state funds to pay for environmental studies and right-of-way purchases along the corridor of the proposed East Beltway project, which would connect Waverly’s Interstate 80 and U.S. 6 interchange with the new South Beltway’s interchange at Nebraska Parkway (formerly known as Nebraska 2).
The beltway’s completion would also alleviate truck traffic on 148th Street, which Lancaster County Engineer Pam Dingman has said sees up to 10,000 vehicles per day in some areas.