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The Neligh Rural Fire Department is moving closer and closer to running out of money. In fact, the department only has enough in reserves to last through the rest of this year.
Neligh Fire Chief Mike Mortensen said it may not have been intentional, but voters decided in November to stop funding the fire department. It was the only levy override in the county to fail. Overrides passed in Tilden, Clearwater, Orchard and Elgin, but Neligh’s override failed 148-119.
"The rural board never thought they’d have to educate people, but you had the school bond issue, the ag society override, the jail and things,” Mortensen said. "A lot of people were upset about the funds that were being spent and just said no to everything, not realizing they were basically stopping their fire protection district.”
Mortensen said the situation is so important that there will be a special election next month in attempt to save the department. He said letters and mail-in ballots will be sent to rural patrons explaining why the override is necessary. Mortensen said the special election will be the second Tuesday of April.
If the override still doesn’t pass, Mortensen said town hall meetings will follow to try again to fund the fire department.
The Neligh Volunteer Fire Department is made up of 45 members - 35 on the city and 10 from the rural. When the fire department responds to calls outside of city limits, they depend on the rural levy.
In the last month, there have been five grass fires outside of Neligh’s city limits. The department also offers mutual aid when other area departments need assistance fighting fires.
Mortensen said they don’t want to stop responding to rural fires, but someone has to pay for the fuel expenses, as well as costs should equipment become damaged.
Still, Mortensen said if patrons didn’t realize they were voting to stop funding the fire department, they can correct that by voting for the override through the mail-in election next month.
“I really believe there were several other items that people were upset about, so they just marked everything off,” he said.