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CITY OF LINCOLN   •   NEWS RELEASE   •   FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Date:
July 07, 2003

For More Information Contact:
Diane Gonzolas, Citizen Information Center, 441-7831

MAYOR RELEASES HOMETOWN SECURITY STUDY

Mayor Coleen Seng said the Hometown Security Study (HSS) Committee report released today identifies an important set of recommendations that can be used as a guide to help close the growth gap in public safety in the City of Lincoln.

“The Hometown Security Study Committee has recommended how we should begin addressing the need to increase size of the Police and Fire Departments and the 911 Center,” said Mayor Seng. “The HSS committee report states public safety continues to be ‘a top priority of local government that must be reflected in City budgets.’”

Mayor Seng has included three recommendations from the report in the fiscal year 2003-2004 City budget:

  • Adding one additional 911 dispatch work station. This would require hiring five additional 911 dispatchers because the station position would answer calls 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. The 911 Center has had three 911-dispatch workstations since the 1980s. The City population has grown from 171,900 in 1980 to 191,900 in 1990 and 225,500 in 2000.
  • Raising the 911 telephone surcharge 50 cents to pay for the additional personnel. In future years, the funds would be used for replacing police and fire radios and other equipment upgrades as needed.
  • Adding 12 police officers in fiscal year 2003-2004 using a combination of federal grant funds and general property taxes.

“The committee volunteers dedicated many hours studying the size and scope of Police, Fire & Rescue and 911, the City safety operations,” said Stanley Heng, retired Nebraska Adjutant General, who chaired the committee. “The diverse group of citizens that participated on the full committee plus those additional citizens on the work groups added to the discussion and the recommendations. While there is more that could be studied and more public awareness of the public safety services that needs to be done, this has been a good process. Lincoln has a good public safety and emergency response team, but the growth of the City has stretched its resources to the limits. These recommendations can help provide a course for the City to meet that growing demand.”

In addition to General Heng, the HSS Committee included Carol Brown, Chair of the Mayor’s Neighborhood Roundtable; Jeff Fortenberry, private business person and former Lincoln City Council member; Jim Geist, retired Chairman and CEO of Lincoln Telephone and Telegraph (now Alltel); Don Marti, Public Safety Manager for the Lincoln Airport; Major Guy F. Moon, Nebraska National Guard Anti-Terrorism Officer; Oscar Rios Pohrieth, a bilingual liaison for the Lincoln Public Schools; Larry Hudkins, County Commissioner; Annette McRoy and Ken Svoboda from the Lincoln City Council; Doug Ahlberg, Director, Lincoln/Lancaster County Emergency Management; Tom Casady, Lincoln Police Chief; Bruce Dart, Director, Lincoln/Lancaster County Health Department; Mike Spadt, Lincoln Fire Chief; and Julie Righter, Manager, 911 Center. Including the volunteers on the work groups, more than 26 people participated in the study.

“The Police and 911 center workgroup members went into this process with the desire to find a way to use current staffing levels and resources and make ‘out of the box’ suggestions to increase services without spending tax dollars,” said Marti, who co-chaired the Police work group. “What we found after examining all of the programs, policies and technology upgrades that Lincoln’s safety services have utilized was that the Police Chief and Fire Chief had already been thinking ‘out of the box’ for a long time to stretch their manpower to its limits. If Lincoln’s citizens want to continue having the police protection, fire safety and 911 services that we have become accustomed to, we must add manpower to deal with the growth of our community.”

The HSS Committee began meeting bi-weekly in January. The workgroups met weekly since March.

“It is imperative that we provide this information to the citizens of Lincoln,” said HSS Committee member Carol Brown. “We need to work with civic, business and neighborhood groups and use all means to educate the community regarding the needs of our safety services. I thought I knew quite a lot about these services, and I was completely surprised at the amount of information that I learned being a part of this committee.”

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