Fire fighters level criticism at Mayor Steele

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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. - The Grand Island Professional Fire Fighters levied criticism at Mayor Roger Steele on Tuesday. This is after the Mayor approved the city budget without allowing for six new fire fighter positions.

This last Tuesday, at the City Council meeting, Mayor Steele vetoed public safety! Through the course of the evening, Mayor Steele refused the revenue from increased property valuations from Hall County and in doing so, eliminated 6 new fire fighter positions that would have helped keep the public safe by reducing calls that have been put on hold. Mayor Steele has publicly commented that he saved a property tax increase when in reality he gave away money and reduced the tax levy which now brings in less revenue to Grand Island. Mayor Steele was a key component for the passing of the Half Cent Sales tax last year in which taxes in town went up to help with infrastructure and public safety.

When called upon to be a champion and hero for public safety again; he vetoed and said no to public safety. As President of the Grand Island Professional Fire Fighters, I commend Fire Chief Schmidt for bringing the need of more fire fighters to the Grand Island City Council attention. While this is not the first time the Council has heard this need, his leadership kept this issue at the forefront of the Council eyes and ears. We further commend Chief Schmidt’s plan for paying for the additional fire fighters that was brought forth to Council months ago. It is disappointing that Mayor Steele conveniently forgets this and states publicity that there was “no ongoing stable source of revenue” when Chief Schmidt clearly presented a stable source. Chief Schmidt’s plan
would have, at the very least paid for a majority of the cost, and likely would have made the additional fire fighters a net-zero effect on the city budget.

Since 1982, Grand Island’s population has grown by more than 20,000 residents and call volume had grown from nearly 2,000 calls for service a year to 5,300 calls for service while maintaining the same two staffed ambulances. Last year we saw 42 calls for service not get answered immediately by an ambulance or fire truck causing a critical delay of care for people in need. Mayor Steele stated Grand Island has a spending problem, even though a plan to pay for the additional fire fighters was proposed, we are now in the midst of a public safety problem.

What does this mean going forward for you Grand Island? First of all, thank you to those who have been so supportive of public safety and see the need for more fire fighters. We, the Grand
Island Professional Fire Fighters, live and breath to provide the best care and safety to Grand Island. It is why we are in this profession. We will still respond with professional, highly trained fire fighters to help when you are hurt, sick, or have a fire. We will do our best every day to juggle the increased call volume and get to you in your time of need as fast as we can. Unfortunately, your elected officials have determined the level of service and care you receive.

Phil Thomas

President of the Grand Island Professional Fire Fighters

IAFF Local 647