A fifth of emergency calls in North Lawrence come during times when an extra emergency crew is on duty in the neighborhood — a service that already has cost nearly twice what had been expected as delays continue at an intersection-reconstruction project.
The rising expense is the price for public safety, said Mike Amyx, a Lawrence city commissioner.
“It’s an absolute,” Amyx said.
Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical spent $56,500 through the first week in February to post an extra emergency crew in the neighborhood, to ensure that the area north of the Kansas River would have access to emergency services in case of traffic backups at the intersection of North Second and Locust streets.
Back in July, when reconstruction work started, officials had planned to spend $28,637 on the extra crew — enough to provide coverage during morning and evening rush hours each weekday, until two-way traffic could return by November.
But construction is months behind schedule, pushing the department’s overtime expenses higher than expected.
“It’s getting tight,” said Mark Bradford, chief of Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical.
The insurance policy has been used 24 times since Aug. 1, with emergency incidents occurring north of the river when the extra crew was on duty, according to a department report. North Lawrence had 122 total calls during the more than six months, when the entire community had 4,242 calls.