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Archive for Wednesday, May 14, 2014

County approves new fire districts in Palmyra, Willow Springs townships

May 14, 2014

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New fire districts for Palmyra and Willow Springs townships were granted Wednesday by the Douglas County Commission.

Last month, the township boards of both municipalities offered to cede control of their respective fire departments and have the commission appoint new governing bodies. Commissioners gave their final stamp of approval during their weekly Wednesday meeting after public hearings on the subject produced two speakers, who were both in favor of the new districts.

"On behalf of the firefighters, the firefighters are all in favor of going district," said Randy DeMersseman, fire chief of the Palmyra Township Fire Department. "It's a chance for us to move forward. I think there's more chance for growth; I think there will be better protections for people."

Clint Hornberger, assistant fire chief of the Willow Springs Township Fire Department, told the commission in April the idea is to streamline management structures by creating a governing body that can focus solely on the fire department.

The commission will next have to appoint the members of the new governing bodies. Representatives from both fire departments recommended that five people be appointed to each board.

The commission then asked the public to make recommendations on possible board members by June 2.

"Making a change like this, sometimes it's hard because people don't want to give up control and it's hard to get them to look at the overall objective," county administrator Craig Weinaug said. "It took a lot of courage to say, 'We're willing to look past those things.' "

In other business, the commission also approved the sale of about four acres of land near the site of the new public works facility. The land will go to the Kansas Department of Transportation for the construction of an operations facility for $201,200. KDOT's plans for the land also include a shared-use fueling station with the county as well.

"It's a mutual benefit for Douglas County and the state of Kansas," Weinaug said.

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