Bellevue Fire Facing Budget Cuts
Photo: Video by kmtv.com
Omaha, NE- It was back in 2009 when the state legislature set a path for the city of Bellevue to go from a volunteer fire department to a paid department. But now that department is in a budget crisis.
Staffing all four of Bellevue's fire stations is at the center of the crisis. But keeping those stations busy could also be putting the public at risk.
They are one of the fastest-responding departments in Sarpy County. But getting to those calls could soon take longer.
"City of Bellevue doesn't know how to budget and I think we should have votes on stuff." says Bellevue resident Travis Barber.
The city of Bellevue is facing a $5 million budget deficit. Each department was asked to cut 14% from their budget, to help meet the fire department's $68 million budget, one option is to force rolling closures of all four of the city's fire stations.
"If a district is shut down and we have a response call right next to that district that is shut down, the time is going to be higher rather if the district were open the firefighters could get there a lot quicker." says Justin Radik, who lives in Bellevue.
Those rolling brownouts could also help the department add 12-full time firefighters.
"12 full time firefighters in Bellevue, its not that big, I don't think it's necessary." says Barber.
Currently, all firefighters are part-time. They just start started getting paid in 2010.
"I believe it wasn't broke so I don't know why they tried to fix it, I think the volunteer fire department was doing a fine job and now all of a sudden their starting to hire and were having budgeting problems." says Marie Lewis, a Bellevue taxpayer.
Over the next five years, the city wants to hire 63 full-time firefighters, but residents worry how the city is spending their money.
"I think that Bellevue doesn't know how to budget because we built a bike lane and spend over, from what I heard, a quarter of a million dollars on a bike lane that I never see anyone on." adds Barber.
Also in that proposed budget is a property tax increase. City council will hold a public hearing on the proposal next Monday at City Hall.