The City of La Vista will hire Papillion firefighters to respond to fire and rescue calls in La Vista's jurisdiction.
Under a proposal presented Tuesday by the La Vista City Council, the city would pay the cost of hiring Papillion firefighters instead of using the La Vista Volunteer Fire Department.
No vote was taken, but an analysis presented to the council concluded that outsourcing is the only change that was affordable. Mayor Doug Kindig said La Vista didn't have enough volunteer firefighters to keep up with city growth.
A study conducted a decade ago found fire and emergency incidents were increasing during the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., City Administrator Brenda Gunn said. Since then, the city has continued growing.
"There wasn't an adequate number of responders during the day time for moderate risk incidents," Gunn said. "Many of the issues we were having today, we were having a long time ago."
Gunn said mutual aid – multiple departments responding to the same incident – is common for larger calls, but shouldn't be required for smaller incidents. La Vista has operated under a dual-response agreement with the Ralston Volunteer Fire Department for daytime incidents.
La Vista needed about 75 additional volunteers to be available for both day and overnight shifts. In January, the department had 52 volunteers, said Police Chief Bob Lausten, who headed the study of fire and emergency personnel.
In the past decade, La Vista's population has grown 45 percent and fire and rescue calls are up 153 percent, but the number of volunteers has not grown proportionally.
Looking forward, Lausten said calls for service are estimated to increase 6 percent annually, the city population will grow by 20 percent but volunteer recruiting will stay flat.
From 2011 to 2012, the response time to incidents in La Vista has increased by 9 percent, which has created safety issues. For instance, police officers have driven emergency vehicles to a hospital when there was no additional help.
"It had to be done," Lausten said. "But it shouldn't have to be done that way."
The City of Papillion works with the Papillion Rural Fire Protection District to provide service outside its territorial limits. In addition, the Papillion Fire Department also responds to mutual aid calls in La Vista and Bellevue.
Moving to a full-time fire department, which would require 22 members, would cost the La Vista more than $4 million, which isn't a possibility, Lausten said. Other options were ruled out because they also proved too costly.
For more on this story, pick up the July 24 edition of the Papillion Times/La Vista Sun. Any developments will be posted to facebook.com/papilliontimes.