Mayor Chris Beutler today announced that Public Safety Director Tom Casady will head a 13-member public safety finance review committee that will make a recommendation on funding a new 911 radio system and a fire station relocation plan. He also invited the public to share their views through a new Taking Charge online survey and the new OPEN Lincoln website.
The Mayor said no one questions the need for the improvements. The City's emergency communications radio system is 27 years old, no longer receives vendor support and is at risk for failure. To improve rising emergency response times, the City proposes to relocate two fire stations and build two new stations, one a joint Police-Fire facility in southeast Lincoln.
"What is at issue is how we pay for the solutions to these challenges," Beutler said. "Some believe a property tax bond approved by voters is the best way to spread the costs among both current and future beneficiaries of our emergency response system. Others believe a public vote to increase the sales tax is the best choice because it spreads the cost across a broader range of people. Resolving the financing issue is the key to moving forward on these critical public safety needs."
The committee is schedule to make a recommendation by the end of the year. Other members of the committee are:
A new Taking Charge survey at lincoln.ne.gov provides detailed background on the two proposed public safety projects and gives respondents the opportunity to evaluate the possible funding strategies. Survey participants also will be able to offer opinions on the importance of other community needs that could be financed if the community decides a sales tax increase is the best funding mechanism. The City again partnered with the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center on the survey.
In addition to the survey, the City unveiled OPEN (Online Public Engagement Network) Lincoln, a new tool that uses the MindMixer platform to encourage community discussion. The City has used MindMixer for specific projects in the past, but is now expanding the service to make it available to residents on an ongoing basis. As residents take the online survey, they will be invited to join the online OPEN Lincoln discussions. Residents also can go directly to OPEN Lincoln at lincoln.mindmixer.com.
"Increasing public involvement in City Hall's decision making leads to wider consensus and better results," Beutler said. "Your participation is more important than ever as we face the challenge of how to maintain Lincoln as a safe community in the future. It is a big decision that could involve deep cuts to City programs or a voter approved increase in taxes. I urge you to make your voice heard and be part of the solution."