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On the day four men interviewed to be Lincoln’s next fire chief, a local business group asked the mayor to uphold an earlier promise that additional firefighters won’t be hired.

Coby Mach, president and chief executive officer of the Lincoln Independent Business Association, said in a news release Wednesday that LIBA will challenge the city if it tries to add firefighters.

He said the group wanted “to remind the mayor that this administration’s actions related to fire department management and expansion will be watched closely throughout the coming year to ensure that taxpayers are not the losers in a drawn out political chess match.”

Last fall, when Mayor Chris Beutler proposed the city raise taxes to buy a new 911 system and pay for four new fire stations, he said the move would require no additional staff. Two older fire stations were to be closed and sold. Staff at two other stations would split, with some moving to new stations, he said.

The mayor, who received the support of the firefighters union, was re-elected in May, a month after voters approved the new tax.

A news release from the mayor’s office in August outlining his goals said “public safety challenges remain."

The mayor said he would "focus on updating Lincoln's fire apparatus, increasing the number of firefighters and looking for opportunities to improve police protection.”

In Wednesday's news release, Mach wrote this: "It is puzzling and incredible that a need for additional firefighters based on the past 10 years of statistics did not exist during the campaign for an increased city sales tax this year.”

Beutler declined to comment on Mach's letter through his chief of staff Rick Hoppe.

Mach suggested in the release that "the mayor was dishonest with voters and the citizens of Lincoln, and the public should be outraged.” Mach also said hiring additional firefighters "at a direct cost to the taxpayers will not go unchallenged."

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7395 or nmanna@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSNicholeManna.

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