Mayor Chris Beutler today urged the City Council to move forward on City Council member Leirion Gaylor Baird's amendment to the proposed public safety bond issue. The bond issue, as originally proposed, would provide $29.5 million to fund modernization of the City's 911 radio system and to build two new replacement fire stations. Gaylor Baird proposes to expand the bond issue to build two new additional fire stations.
"The need for these stations is clear," Gaylor Baird said. "Over 8,000 homes are outside the four-minute emergency response time. The four stations will address the four separate growing areas currently farther than four minutes away from emergency services. Specifically, the two stations in my proposal will keep northeast Lincoln and the southern tier of the City within the critical response time when life-threatening emergencies occur." Gaylor Baird said building all four stations now will save on design costs and allow the City to take advantage of low interest rates and a competitive development environment.
The City Council will hold a public hearing and vote on the bond issue at its meeting Monday, August 25. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, 555 S. 10th St. If approved the bond issue would be on the November 4 general election ballot.
The bond issue, as originally proposed, would have provided $20.5 million for a radio system and $9 million for fire stations. It would have added 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 new proposal would add $5 million for fire stations bringing the bond issue total to $34.5 million. The property tax bill would increase less than $4 a year to an estimated $25.05.
Public Safety Director Tom Casady said a 2012 fire station optimization study identified the need for four new stations and called for phasing in the new facilities. The original bond issue called for building the first two 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 fire and police station in southeast Lincoln. The new stations would replace existing stations that are in need of extensive rehabilitation: Station 12 (84th and South streets) and Station 10 (1440 Adams Street).
Gaylor Baird's amendment would implement the entire fire station optimization plan, and Casady said the new and relocated stations would improve response times without additional staff.
"We cannot compromise on public safety," said Mayor Beutler. "Residents who are at greater risk from slower response times deserve the support of the Council and the general public. A successful Council vote sends the message that City Hall understands the public's priority is safe families, safe neighborhoods and a secure future for all."