This article was corrected on April 23.

By Brandon Dumsky

The Blue Springs City Council wants Central Jackson County Fire Protection District to cover the entire city for fire and emergency medical services.

However, one councilman disagrees on how the city should approach this objective.

According to city documents written by city attorney Bob McDonald, citizens in the southern portion of Blue Springs have questioned the ability of the Prairie Township Fire Protection District to provide timely fire protection services because of the location of Prairie Township’s fire station, which is at 11010 Milton Thompson Road in Lee’s Summit. Prairie Township provides fire and emergency services south of Liggett Road in Blue Springs, as well as portions of Lake Lotawana and parts of unincorporated Jackson County.

City officials have met with the fire district’s representatives to obtain a sense of the district’s plan to better serve Blue Springs citizens living within the district’s boundaries, wrote McDonald. CJC previously entered into an automatic aid agreement with Prairie Township in which Prairie Township would provide some sort of plan to improve its ability to provide more responsive services in the southern portion of Blue Springs. McDonald wrote when that did not occur, the automatic aid agreement was cancelled by CJC.

Now the city is retaining law firm Zerger & Mauer LLP to provide legal advice for citizens living within the Prairie Township district on how they can ask that their property to be excluded from Prairie Township. The council passed an ordinance that approved an agreement with Zerger & Mauer LLP Monday evening. The initial scope of the work is estimated to cost $5,000, said City Administrator Eric Johnson. Additional expenses would require approval by the council, but city staff is recommending a larger budget of $50,000 be set aside for other potential costs.

“(Prairie Township) does not have the capacity to serve Blue Springs within their district,” said Councilwoman Susan Culpepper. “I have received phone calls and emails from citizens in that district that show great concern for their safety.”

Councilman Dale Carter told the council that he was troubled by how much money is being committed to this project.

“Ultimately we (Blue Springs City Council) want CJC to cover all of Blue Springs,” said Carter. “My objection is the approach on how the city is reaching this goal.”

Carter said spending money on legal advice, which will make citizens living within the Prairie Township district go door-to-door to obtain signatures for a petition to allow their property be excluded from the district, would be tough to accomplish.

“It could fail if some did not sign (a petition). It’s just feel-good legislation for the city.”

Instead, he proposed a more cost-effective and grassroots alternative in which somebody could run for the Prairie Township Fire District board to convince them to de-annex the southern portion of Blue Springs so it could be incorporated into CJC.

Despite Carter’s opposition, the council approved of retaining Zerger & Mauer LLP for legal advice on the goal of CJC covering all of the city’s boundaries.

Councilman Ron Fowler noted that Zerger & Mauer LLP represented the Independence School District for the 2007 annexation of Kansas City public schools. He said citizens living in that section of the school district did not seem to be engaged or involved in the district’s acquisition of those schools.

“It’s putting money where it needs to be,” said councilman Jeff Quibell on the city hiring the law firm for legal advice.

Nevertheless, the entire Council agreed that this is an important public safety issue for Blue Springs.

“This will require active citizen involvement,” said Johnson.

Oath of office

Councilmen Kent Edmondson, Ron Fowler and Jeff Quibell were sworn into the Blue Springs City Council. Each incumbent was uncontested during the April 8 election.

Councilwoman Susan Culpepper was also elected as Mayor Pro Tempore by the council. Previous Mayor Pro Tempore Dale Carter reccommended her to the council, and they uniamously agreed. Culpepper will serve as the council’s liaison for the Blue Springs Planning Commission. She previously served the commission for 21 years, nine of them  as the commission’s chairwoman.