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City will save money on 911 radio system sharing with state

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Cary Steele checks one of his seven computer monitors while taking a 911 call in this 2014 photo shot at the Lincoln Emergency Communications Center. 

Lincoln will save more than $570,000 through an arrangement with the state to share emergency radio system assets. 

The city will operate its new 911 radio system using the state computer core and will be able to use the statewide radio system for communication, which will be particularly helpful in rural parts of the county, said Tom Casady, the city's public safety director.

In return, the state will be able to use the city’s new radio system, which offers better communication service inside the urban area.

This is a straight-across exchange, Casady said. No money will change hands, he said during a meeting of the emergency radio oversight committee this week.

The agreement, not yet signed, is simple, Casady said.

“It says we are going to work together; we are going to share our stuff and each of us will take care of our own infrastructure,” he told the group overseeing spending of a quarter-cent sales tax hike for a new emergency radio system and fire stations.

The city’s ability to use the state computer core will save some money now and more down the road since the city will not have to buy the core or pay for maintenance in five to 10 years, he said.

The city is also looking at locations and design for the three fire stations and a co-located police/fire station to be built with revenue from the quarter-cent sales tax.

The cost of the radio system, being provided by Motorola, is much less than estimates. But it looks like the fire stations may cost more than estimated.

The city will likely have to buy commercially zoned land rather than residential land. And commercial land generally costs twice as much, oversight committee members were told.

In addition, Casady said, construction costs “are going through the roof.”

"Staff are now estimating construction costs for the stations at $250 a square foot. We had expected more like $180 per square foot,” he said.

The city will be saving money by using the design for a new Airpark fire station, being built at Northwest 48th and West Adams streets for all three new stations.

The city had to move its Airpark fire station when the Airport Authority decided it needed the building.

Despite the added costs, Casady said he still expects the city will finish all the quarter-cent projects under budget.

“Nothing would make me happier than to bring both (radio and fire stations) in under budget and to end the sales tax a couple of months early. And that is our goal,” he said.

The committee also got an update on finding land for the four stations.

In the north, the city is getting close to buying land near 19th and Superior streets, said Assistant Fire Chief Pat Borer.

The city is also looking at several sites near 86th Street and Leighton Avenue, which is close to the ideal 84th and Holdrege streets location, he said.

Staff are looking at land near 70th Street and Pine Lake Road now zoned commercial and at land on the southwest and southeast corners of 84th and Pioneers.

City voters approved a three-year, quarter-cent hike in the city sales tax to pay for the stations and radio system.

The revenue has been coming in as expected, at about $1 million a month, Casady said. 

Reach the writer at 402-473-7250 or

On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.


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Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

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