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Omaha Fire Union officially endorses Heath Mello, citing emergency response times as concern

Posted at 6:24 PM, Mar 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-14 12:26:12-04

Response times on emergency calls are once again the hot button issue in the Omaha mayor's race as the Omaha Fire Union endorses Heath Mello for mayor saying more can be done to keep the community safe.

"Over the years we have raised numerous public safety concerns with regard to Mayor Stothert. All of the ways in which she has disregarded our concerns will no longer be an issue," said President Steve LeClair, Omaha Professional Firefighter's Association.

Tensions between the fire union and the mayor's office have been longstanding so the professional firefighters association's endorsement of Heath Mello comes as no surprise to many.

President Steve Leclair says Mello's commitment to adding a new medic unit to Northwest Omaha is a big factor behind the endorsement.

"Look, the reality is that the response times are increasing due to medic units being at the same ratio that they have been at for years," said Heath Mello, mayoral candidate.

Officials say there are too many calls with too few responding crews with the number of calls received increasing by 26 percent since 2009. Le Clair adds he received push back from the mayor's office when asking for data about response times.

"When we tried to engage Mayor Stothert in a discussion about adding medic units in that part of the city it took a formal public records request a freedom of information act and one full year before the requested information was provided," said LeClair. "There's no reason a request of this type should take a year to fulfill unless the administration has something to hide."

Data provided by the Omaha Professional Firefighters Association shows the highest responding medic unit went from assisting around 31-hundred calls in 2009, to more than 43 hundred calls last year.

We reached out to Mayor Stothert's campaign for comment.

They said in part, "The way the union leadership handled this was not very impressive."