Douglas County Commission to consider beginning second phase of rural fire department consolidation

photo by: Chris Conde

The Douglas County Courthouse is pictured in September 2018.

The Douglas County Commission on Wednesday could begin the second part of a two-phase plan to consolidate several rural fire departments.

The commissioners will consider giving initial approval to a resolution outlining the merger of the recently created Fire District No. 6 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.

According to a memo to the commissioners, the governing boards for fire districts No. 1 and No. 4 have submitted written requests to be consolidated.

If approved, the county will then publish notice of the proposed consolidation later this month, according to a memo to the commissioners. It will then consider final approval of the second phase of the plan on June 24, which would conclude the process. Additionally, the newly created district would be known as Consolidated Fire District No. 1, according to the memo.

Last week, commissioners finalized the first phase of the plan, which included consolidating four township fire departments — Clinton, Eudora, Kanwaka and Wakarusa — into a new county fire district known as Fire District No. 6.

When fully consolidated, the newly created fire district would cover the majority of the rural area of the county, except for 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. The Palmyra and Willow Springs townships 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.

The chiefs of the four township fire departments proposed the plan to the county in March, suggesting it would help them provide better services by streamlining their operations.

However, the financial impact for taxpayers of the district has not been clear. The county expects the district will use a mill levy of 5.5 mills to collect roughly the same amount of money the residents of the district currently pay to their townships for fire services.

County Administrator Sarah Plinsky told the Journal-World last week that the county did not yet know how much that would be and wouldn’t know until the districts were consolidated and had gone through the county’s normal budgeting process this summer.

“We just need more time to go through (the process),” Plinsky said last week. “We believe we can expand service for roughly the same amount of money it is costing now.”

In other business, the commissioners will 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 Public Incentive Review Committee is requesting the county approve a total of approximately $463,000 of incentives for the project.

The commissioners were set to consider the item last week but deferred taking action.

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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