City Council approves annexation, leaving more questions about the future for residents and volunteer first responders

In a unanimous vote Monday, the Lincoln Council approved the annexation of 445 acres surrounded by southeast Lincoln.
Published: Mar. 27, 2023 at 10:42 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - It’s a vote that many homeowners living in the 445 acres of land, between Pine Lake and Yankee Hill Roads, 70th to 84th, had been dreading for months.

On Monday night, Lincoln City Councilors approved a plan to annex that area, and bring it inside city limits starting this summer (July 1). That vote was unanimous.

“There is going to be some inconveniences,” said Councilman Richard Meginnis. “They’re going to be part of the city, they’re going to have to start living with some of the city rules, and it’s not going to be easy.” Ultimately, Meginnis said he believes that it’s a move that needed to be made.

The concern, however, now turns to the future of one of Lancaster County’s top volunteer fire departments: Southeast. With the annexation of the roughly 445 acres set to begin on July 1st, that will allow the county and Southeast Rural Fire & Rescue to collect their full amount for 2023 when it comes to taxes.

That said, what happens to their south station near Nebraska Parkway and Eiger Drive is the biggest concern for the department, and for the residents living along the 56th Street corridor between Yankee Hill and Saltillo Roads. Southeast’s Assistant Chief, Jeremy Quist, told 10/11 NOW at a meeting on March 16th, that if the annexation plan is approved by the council, the department would have to take a long look at whether or not they could keep the south station open.

As it is right now, Southeast’s response time is one of the best in the county for all types of calls. Being surrounded by the city, however, does impact that response time. Quist says that if the south station were to be closed, their ability to respond to the southern portion of their jurisdiction would be significantly impacted, as they would be forced to respond to calls in that area (Yankee Hill to Saltillo) from their north station at 84th and Holdrege, which is completely surrounded by Lincoln. Requesting another department, such as Hickman or Southwest, to help respond to calls in this area is one of the options being discussed.

As for fire protection and medical services for the acreages being annexed, Lincoln Fire & Rescue will take over those responsibilities. While response times for medical calls with drastically improve, it remains to be seen if fire protection will stay the same or increase, based of the apparatus that LFR has to fight fires on acreages compared to Southeast.

“I believe that LFR does a fantastic job,” said council member Sandra Washington, who has been deeply involved in discussions with property owners in the annexed area. “They provide excellent fire coverage to the city.”

“Purchasing tankers will be my highest priority going forward,” Washington said. “I know that we have a long history of mutual aid between LFR and rural fire departments. I trust the relationships that have been built.”

Council Chair Tammy Ward made mention of the fact that there is some time to make additional adjustments to better help the residents in the new area, such as the issue of burn permits.