Omaha Fire Chief Asks City Council To Renegotiate Fire Union Contract In Wake Of Shortfall

OMAHA, NE &#8211 The fire chief for Nebraska’s largest city has warned that his department faces a multimillion-dollar shortfall, and he wants the Omaha City Council to take action.

Omaha Fire Chief Michael McDonnell has asked the City Council to take a rare step to revive labor negotiations with the city’s fire unions, The Omaha World Herald reported (http://bit.ly/12w1vHT).

In a letter sent to City Council members Friday, McDonnell blamed the latest fire union contract for burdening the department with extra costs that he said its current budget cannot absorb.

McDonnell said the department faces an $8.6 million shortfall at the end of the year and asked the council to transfer an additional $5.3 million into the department’s budget to help. The council rejected a similar request in February.

Officials have said the shortfall is largely due to costs involved with paramedic training that will make 24 firefighters unavailable to cover regular shifts.

Renewing contract negotiations “may achieve at least some additional financial relief,” McDonnell wrote.

Council member Jean Stothert, a Republican who faces Democratic Mayor Jim Suttle next month in the mayor’s race, said the council will not reopen contract negotiations. Stothert heads a committee that led negotiations on the fire contract.

“I do not see this as an issue of being over-budget,” Stothert said. “I see it as an issue of failed leadership and failed management.”

McDonnell’s letter said fire union president Steve LeClair would ask the union’s board to approve reopening negotiations, if the council made such a request.

From The Associated Press via The Republic