Mayor Proposes Bond Issue To Improve Public Safety | Announces $1.3M Grant for LFR

By: Courtesy: Mayor Chris Beutler/10/11 Email
By: Courtesy: Mayor Chris Beutler/10/11 Email

LINCOLN, Neb.-- Mayor Chris Beutler is proposing a $29.5 million bond issue to fund modernization of the City's 911 radio system and to build two new replacement fire stations.

If the City Council approves, the bond issue would be on the November 4 general election ballot. A public hearing on the resolution is set for the August 25 City Council meeting, which begins at 5:30 p.m.

“These projects respond to our number one priority -- public safety -- in a cost-effective manner,” Beutler said. “They will give our police officers and firefighters the tools and facilities needed to continue to provide quality service to the citizens of Lincoln.” The proposed bond issue would add an estimated $21.41 a year to the property tax bill on a property valued at $150,000, beginning in the 2015-16 fiscal year.

The bond issue would provide $20.5 million for a new radio system. The system was last replaced beginning in 1987, and portions are now more than 25 years old. Many components no longer receive vendor support, and many are no longer available. In addition to the Lincoln Police Department, Lincoln Fire and Rescue and the Lancaster County Sheriff's Office, the radio system serves the City Public Works and Utilities Department, the UNL Police Department, Lincoln Public Schools and other agencies.

The two new stations would replace two existing stations that are in need of extensive rehabilitation: Station 12, 84th and South streets, and Station 10, 1440 Adams Street. The relocations would improve response times without additional staff.

On the outside, you can't see how cramped fire station 12 is but as Captain Bob Weddington points out, it's tight quarters for firefighters to live or even train every day.

Bob Weddington, "The foundation is settling in this building and it's basically falling apart."

Their fire engine barely fits in it's garage and Weddington agrees that it is time for them to expand.

Weddington said,"Any time you can get a location that's going to get you to the fire and emergency calls faster and better it's going to let us help the citizens more."

“In the 18 years since a new fire station was built in Lincoln, the City has grown by about 57,000 people and more than 20 square miles,” Beutler said. “With these two new stations, we will be able to improve our response times to growing areas in both north and south Lincoln -- areas that are currently beyond four minutes travel time from any fire station.”

Public Safety Director Tom Casady said a fire station optimization study identified the best locations for the new stations. One would be in north-central Lincoln, the area Casady said experiences the most life-threatening emergencies that are more than four minutes away from the closest fire station. The second would be a joint police and fire facility in southeast Lincoln, allowing officers who serve that quadrant to deploy from within their area of assignment rather than from downtown. Casady said the time savings is equal to almost one full-time officer. He said a joint facility also saves on the costs of land acquisition, design, utilities and paving.

Mayor Chris Beutler also announced Lincoln Fire and Rescue (LFR) has been awarded a federal grant of more than $1.3 million to replace all the department’s Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA).

The equipment makes it possible for firefighters to work in environments that are immediately dangerous to life and health, such as fires with high heat and smoke, hazardous materials incidents with noxious chemicals and confined spaces with low oxygen levels.

The Federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant will allow LFR to purchase SCBA that meet the new National Fire Protection Association standards for thermal protection, air management and firefighter communication. Fire Chief John Huff said LFR would not have been able to remain compliant with the higher standards without the grant.

“The purchase of new Self Contained Breathing Apparatus equipment will help to reduce the loss of life and property and injuries among civilians and firefighters,” Beutler said.

The grant will provide $1,339,110 of the total cost of $1,487,900. The useful life of SCBAs is 10 to 15 years, depending on the advancement of technology. Huff said currently available SCBA will be evaluated to determine which equipment to purchase. The grant requires completion of the project within the next 12 months.

More information on LFR is available at fire.lincoln.ne.gov.


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