OMAHA, Neb. — A fire district in Omaha is moving forward with plans to start its own fire department to serve residents and businesses outside the city’s western boundaries.

City officials announced Wednesday that the Elkhorn Suburban Fire District wants to create its own department and end its contract with the city for fire, rescue and medical services, the Omaha World-Herald reported .

“I have a task and a goal to move forward with the establishment of the Elkhorn Fire and Rescue Department,” said Travis Harlow, who will be its new chief. “We’ve been working on all the behind-the-scenes stuff and are prepared and ready to move forward.”

Mayor Jean Stothert and Omaha Fire Chief Dan Olsen said they feel the new department won’t be able to serve the area at the same level as the Omaha Fire Department, which has more than 650 members.

The district’s board and the city ended negotiations on a new contract after the fire district raised concerns about how much Omaha’s services cost. Harlow said the district would have to pay the city more than $5 million by 2023 if the call volume trends continue growing at a linear pace.

Harlow said the goal of the department is to maintain public safety while decreasing the district’s property tax rate. Stothert said creating a new department would only lead to increased costs for residents.

Stothert said the city remains open to negotiating the contract, which expires at the end of 2018.

The new chief said he’s aiming for a new fire station to be open by 2019.


Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

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