Bellevue Fire Department releases new budget

Brooke Jones, Reporter

The Bellevue City Council voted to add $761,000 for the Bellevue Fire Department at a council meeting on August 27.

Budget cuts would have resulted in a lack of personnel on duty and a possible decrease in the number of operating fire stations. Don Gifford, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, explained how the proposed budget would have affected the department.

“The proposed budget would have caused a reduction in the number of firefighters on each fire truck from four to three,” Gifford wrote in an email. “The National Fire Protection Association requires each fire truck to have at least four firefighters, therefore the proposed budget would not maintain the minimum number of firefighters.”

A different solution to the problem left many local residents concerned because it would have put the community in danger.

“The alternative would be to shut down a fire truck for a day, causing increased response times,” Gifford wrote in an email. “Response times matter because fire increases exponentially every minute.”

Supporters urged others to email their city council representatives and ask them to restore funding in the proposed budget by holding signs along Cornhusker Road and sharing Facebook posts. One of those City Council members was Don Preister.

“Community interest in the fire department budget was exceptionally high this year because the department is growing and requiring more revenue that was not provided in the proposed budget,” Preister wrote in an email.

Out of the current staff of 164 members, up to 30 jobs could have been eliminated.

In an effort to prevent that from happening, a restaurant tax was brought into the discussion. The 0.75 percent tax would contribute to purchases of new fire trucks and the option to keep all four of the Bellevue fire stations open at all times. It would also keep a continuous stream of revenue flowing. The tax has yet to be put into action, but remains as a top option.

The council voted unanimously to approve the budget of $761,000. This year’s budget will allow all four stations to continue operating and all current members to remain on staff.