Budget Battle Could Idle Rigs

Josh Egbert

Photo: Video by kmtv.com

Budget Battle Could Idle Rigs

CREATED Aug. 7, 2013

Omaha, NE- The idea of removing rigs to save the city money has firefighters worried about the public's safety. If rigs were to be taken out of service, how would that affect public safety?

"We will still of course respond but the fire equipment and personnel will have to come from a farther distance to be able to give the service to the citizens that have called for help." says Fire Chief Mike McDonnell.

Chief McDonnell says an ambulance from station 56 and a truck from station 61 would be parked for the year.

"You're looking at those 2 apparatus that basically made approximately 18-hundred call and the other one made 16-hundred calls last year in 2012." says Chief McDonnell

While Mayor Stothert left the decision up to Chief McDonnell about which rigs would be taken out of service, he says any cuts to service are difficult in a growing city.

"We believe right now east, west, north, south this is the equipment we have in service and should maintain that and keep it in service that's going to be through the budget process of the city council and going through this and looking at how we can do that." says Chief McDonnell.

The chief says he'd like to meet with the mayor and fire union and reopen the collective bargaining agreement to save money without taking rigs out of service. But union president Steve LeClair says the only entity with authority to reopen the contract, is the fire union.

The city and union are currently embattled in a lawsuit over that collective bargaining agreement.
A judge is expected to rule on that suit next week.

City Council president Pete Festersen says the negotiations are ongoing.

"The mayor has control of negotiations and has been negotiating with bargaining union and we hope that continues and I think it is." says Festersen.

City council will vote on the budget at the end of the month. Council can still decide to give more money to the fire department to keep those rigs in service.