Mayor Chris Beutler today announced that he is adding $323,000 to his 2014-16 City budget to increase public safety by starting a fund for a joint facility in southeast Lincoln for the Lincoln Police Department and Lincoln Fire and Rescue. The Mayor said the City Budget Office made a "very rare" coding error in the final budget compilation that makes available $48,000 in 2014-15 and $275,000 annually after that. He disclosed the error to the City Council today, along with its intended use.
"Our public safety officials say one of their biggest areas of concern is our police and fire response times," Beutler said. "Their highest priority is a new joint fire and police facility in rapidly growing southeast Lincoln to greatly reduce the response time for families facing emergencies. They estimate that the new facility would save enough travel time to equal about two additional police officers a year."
The cost of a new facility is estimated at $5 million. Public Safety Director Tom Casady said the joint facility would begin the fire station location optimization program that seeks to position stations in better locations to help meet City growth. The plan calls for building two new stations and relocating two more, with two of the four located in southeast Lincoln. The initial $48,000 and the $275,000 annually could be used to acquire land or to service debt.
Casady said the last new fire station was built in 1997. Since then the City has grown 22 square miles and increased in population by 57,000 people. "This proposal gives us the biggest bang for the buck in the area of public safety," Casady said.
Beutler said public safety remains his top budget priority as the City grows. "Because we have spared our public safety services from the reductions many other departments have experienced, it now makes up more than half of our City budget," he said. "This new facility would provide added protection for the community without additional personnel costs."
The Mayor's original budget proposal is available at lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: proposed budget). The change would be reflected in the budget resolutions the Mayor submits to the City Council next week. The public hearing on the budget is scheduled for Monday, August 11, and the new fiscal year begins September 1.