Douglas County Commission to consider finalizing first step of rural fire department consolidation plan

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World File Photo

The Douglas County Courthouse is pictured in September 2018.

The Douglas County Commission on Wednesday will consider giving final approval to the first part of its plan to consolidate several rural fire stations into one new fire district.

In early March, the commissioners gave initial approval of the proposal by authorizing a resolution outlining the first part of the plan, which is consolidating four rural fire departments — Clinton Township, Eudora Township, Kanwaka Township and Wakarusa Township — into a new county district to be known as Fire District No. 6.

Prior to making a decision on Wednesday, the commissioners will hold a public hearing on the resolution. Karrey Britt, a spokeswoman for the county, said the county courthouse would be open to the public to allow residents to speak.

However, Britt noted that residents may also submit their comments to the commissioners in writing. All three commissioners’ email contact information can be found on the county’s website. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the county previously said it is strongly recommending that residents follow proceedings from home.

If approved Wednesday, the plan calls for the commissioners to further merge the new fire district with the county’s Fire District No. 1, which serves the Lecompton Township, and Fire District No. 4, which serves the northern part of Marion Township. The county plans to consider that portion of the plan later this month, following the same public process.

When fully consolidated, the newly created fire district would cover a majority of the rural parts of the county, except the areas already covered by the county’s Fire District No. 2, which serves the Palmyra Township, and Fire District No. 3, which serves the Willow Springs Township. Palmyra Township and Willow Springs Township are in the southeast and south-central parts of the county, respectively.

Additionally, the southern portion of Marion Township, in the southwest corner of the county, is served by an Osage County fire district, and Grant Township, located north of Lawrence, has contracted fire services through Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical.

photo by: Contributed photo

This map provided by Douglas County shows in white the areas of the county that would be served by the new Fire District No. 6. The County Commission gave initial approval to create the new district during its meeting on Wednesday, March 4, by consolidating the Clinton Township, Eudora Township, Kanwaka Township and Wakarusa Township fire departments.

Fire Chief Mike Baxter, of the Wakarusa Township Fire Department, said in March that the consolidation would not result in any loss of services. Instead, Baxter told the commissioners, the plan to consolidate may provide opportunities for all four to enhance and streamline services.

“We’re not removing any piece of equipment, station or personnel — nothing,” he said at the time. “We’re unifying services to get stronger as a single entity, instead of multiple entities.”

In other business:

• The commissioners will receive a recommendation from the Public Incentive Review Committee and consider participating in a Neighborhood Revitalization Area to construct a mixed-use housing development at 800 Pennsylvania St.

The county, City of Lawrence and Lawrence school district all have the discretion to determine the rebate percentage and duration of the NRA for their taxing jurisdictions. According to a memo sent to the commissioners, the PIRC is requesting the county approve a total of approximately $463,000 of incentives for the project.

The Lawrence City Commission was originally scheduled to consider awarding its portion of the nearly $2 million of incentives for the project during its meeting Tuesday, but the meeting was postponed because of technical difficulties. A date for the new meeting has not yet been announced. The Lawrence school board is expected to consider its portion during its meeting on April 13, according to the memo.

• The commissioners will consider approving an agreement to pay approximately $110,000 to Atmos Energy to move its gas lines along Route 1055 between North 1000 Road to North 1175 Road. The replacement of the gas lines is needed to make room for a county road improvement project on Route 1055, which is slated to begin in June.

The County Commission will meet at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the county courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St. The meeting will be open to the walk-in public, but a link for the public to watch live online is available on the county’s website, Residents may also call in and listen by phone by dialing 1-312-626-6799 and entering meeting ID 744 863 537. Full audio from the meeting will continue to be posted on the county’s website as normal.

Contact Dylan Lysen

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