Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical analysis recommends building three new fire stations, discontinuing use of one station
photo by: Kim Callahan/Journal-World
An analysis of Lawrence’s fire and medical stations and response times has identified a need to relocate one fire station and add two more, potentially costing more than $25 million over the next several years.
The Lawrence City Commission received Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical’s station optimization analysis as part of its meeting Tuesday. Fire Chief Shaun Coffey told the commission the study was intended to update a similar one that was conducted in 1996 and implemented over the subsequent 10 years. That process resulted in two stations being relocated and one station, Fire Station No. 5, being added. Coffey said that study had served the city well for several years, but the recent analysis indicates that more stations are needed because the city has grown.
“Lawrence is the sixth-largest city in the state — with about 100,000 people, give or take — and we have five fire stations,” Coffey said.
For perspective, Coffey compared the number of stations in Lawrence to several of the state’s largest communities, including nearby Topeka, which he said has about 124,000 people and 12 fire stations. He also mentioned Shawnee, Lenexa, Manhattan and Salina, each of which has significantly fewer people than Lawrence. Shawnee and Salina each have four fire stations, Manhattan has five and Lenexa has six.
The analysis used travel times for each of Lawrence’s five stations to identify gaps in coverage, specifically areas where travel time from a station was more than the National Fire Protection Association standard of four minutes. This analysis also considers public health data, City of Lawrence planning data, local crime data and fire and medical data, according to a memo to the commission.
“The focus of this study is to identify opportunities to enhance the department’s ability to provide equitable, reliable, and predictable travel time performance consistent with industry best-practice,” the study’s executive summary states.
photo by: Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical
The analysis identified three areas with travel times over four minutes: one in the northwest part of the city, another in north-central Lawrence and the third in the southern part of the city. The analysis recommends simultaneously constructing two new stations, one in north-central Lawrence and one in the northwest. After construction, staff and resources currently located at Fire Station No. 3, 3708 W. Sixth St., would be relocated to the north-central station, and new staff and resources would be needed for the northwest station.
The projects in the northern part of the city would be conducted over the next four years. The project in southern Lawrence is recommended to start a few years later, in 2027.
The construction of the proposed northwest station and relocation of Station 3 would have an estimated cost of $16.7 million over the next four years. The opening of the northwest station would require 21 new employees and an additional $2.6 million for operating costs, which would require a $1.6 million contribution from the city after the county’s contribution. Building a new south station is estimated to cost $10.2 million, and it’s recommended funding for that project be budgeted in 2027, 2028 and 2029.
Regarding service to south Lawrence, Mayor Brad Finkeldei asked whether it would be possible in the short term to co-locate services at the Douglas County fire station near 31st Street, such as placing an ambulance and a few employees at that station until another station is built to better serve the southern part of the city. Coffey said the department has an agreement to have an ambulance at a station in Eudora, and that co-locating some services at that station is a possibility that could be investigated.
As far as next steps, Coffey said that the department would see about implementing different aspects of the analysis as part of its normal budget and capital improvement process. The city’s five-year capital improvement plan, which includes all capital projects over $100,000, is presented as part of the annual budget process each summer, and the commission votes to approve the capital plan year by year as part of the budget.