Douglas County increases funding for fire department training tower, but won’t fulfill city’s request entirely

photo by: Dylan Lysen

Douglas County Commissioners discuss a City of Lawrence request to increase county funding for an ongoing project to replace a fire training tower in town during the commission's meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019.

The Douglas County Commission wants to help fund a joint city-county project to replace a fire department training tower in Lawrence, but it only wants to pay for portions of the project it feels are its responsibility.

During its meeting on Wednesday, the commission agreed to an $86,000 increase in its funding commitment for an ongoing project to replace the training tower, located at 1941 Haskell Ave., for the Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical Department. The increase in funding brings the county’s contribution for the $1.2 million project to $266,000.

But that contribution falls about $40,000 short of the $307,000 that the City of Lawrence had asked the county to provide.

Commissioner Nancy Thellman said she didn’t want to provide the full amount requested by the city because the city had broadened the scope of the project beyond what the county had originally agreed to. The original project was just going to replace the tower, Thellman said, but the city had since expanded the project to include improvements to a nearby public park and its surrounding sidewalks.

“Our part of the original concept was to help build a training tower,” she said. “I don’t know if we need to pay for much of the improvement of the public park.”

Commissioner Michelle Derusseau said she agreed with Thellman, noting that the overall cost of the project — which was originally estimated at about $700,000 — had increased by about $500,000 with the new additions. She said she would be OK with providing more money to account for inflation, but that the city was asking the county to provide far more than that.

“I don’t think that was our responsibility,” Derusseau said of the park and sidewalk improvements. “If the city feels they need to have that, to me, that falls out of our responsibility to help build the fire tower.”

Fire Chief Shaun Coffey told county commissioners he would go back to the city and ask it to provide the rest of the necessary funding.

In other business, the commission:

• Approved an amendment to a contract with Hamm Inc. that will expand the scope of road improvement projects on portions of county routes 1029 and 438.

Chad Voigt, deputy public works director, said the amendment will allow for another 1.5 miles of road improvements on Route 438 near the Kansas Highway 10 intersection. The amendment will increase spending on the project by $485,000, for a total cost of about $1.75 million.

• Received a report from Mallory Meek, an agent for the K-State Research and Extension Office in Douglas County, about a local effort to provide resources to address mental health issues among farmers. The extension office partnered with Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center to raise awareness of the issue and provide resources to local farmers.

Meek said one example of the partnership’s work is a webpage on the extension office’s website highlighting various resources that farmers can use to get help. Bert Nash also has a program to match farmers with mental health providers who can fit their specific needs.

Contact Dylan Lysen

Have a story idea, news or information to share? Contact reporter Dylan Lysen:


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.