GI department continue to push back on City Council decision to remove new employees

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - With a growing population and not a growing staff, the concern among Grand Island firefighters remains the same. The city also staying true to their decision, saying the budget just isn't big enough for everything they want to do.

Grand Island Fire Fighters bring fire trucks back into the station after responding to a call. (Credit: Alicia Naspretto, KSNB)

"I look at things differently than the Mayor does as far as Fire Department needs," Fire Chief Cory Schmidt told Local4 News. "He's looking at more of a broad or larger view of the city but ultimately I think we both have the best interest of the people out there in mind."

The Grand Island Fire Department has been in a back and forth battle with the City Council about adding new positions to their staff to help with growing call volume they can't keep up. Now the Grand Island Professional Fire Fighters are speaking out, releasing a statement condemning his decision.

The statement by the groups President Phil Thomas said in part "We will do our best every day to juggle the increased call volume. Unfortunately your elected officials have determined the level of service and care you receive."

"All of the Grand Island Professional Fire Fighters are frustrated," Union Member Jared Stockwell said. "They want to provide a good service and they want to not put people at risk. We're at a point where we're putting people at risk for delayed calls. That keeps us up at night, we don't want to see that happening."

While the Mayor says he does understand their concern, he is still standing firm on his decision. He said the money just isn't there and Chief Schmidt's proposal for ambulance service wouldn't have been enough.

"It was a proposal based upon revenue from non emergency transfers, but the details were very unknown at the time,".Mayor Roger Steele said. "The proposal he brought forward did not answer all of the revenue questions that we had."

Chief Schmidt and Mayor Steele met on Tuesday to start discussions on what's next. A new Budget Policy Committee will also be working with the city's Financial Director to find room for new positions.

The committee will be looking to add positions in more department than just GIFD. The Grand Island Public Library was also looking to bring on new employees this year.

The library's request was to bring back positions lost in past budget cuts. They'd been trying to get those positions back for years and thought this year would be the one it would go through.

They say their recent request wasn't for any extra money, but to move around what they had to make room for new staff.

"We did it in a way that was more of a reorganization so that it wouldn't cost extra money in the budget however that just wasn't able to be done," Library Director Steve Fosselman said. "So we're going to have to regroup a little bit. We're back at status quo budget and status quo staffing."

The Library Board now plans to work with the budget policy committee on how they can rework their request for next year.