The Prairie Township Fire Protection District plans to reach out to the Central Jackson County Fire Protection District for a new automatic aid agreement, along with the formation of an independent review panel to evaluate its own response times and service.
Prairie Township Board of Directors Chairman Harry McClane announced the auto-aid offer, which comes with no other conditions or stipulations, after the board met in a closed session for nearly 30 minutes during its monthly meeting Wednesday evening.
The closed session followed an impassioned speech by a Blue Springs resident living within the Prairie Township district asking for “timely responses from the nearest available service.”
“Life and property are on the line,” Jim Moran of Blue Springs told the board. “Please sign an auto-aid agreement to ease citizen’s concerns.”
Moran said CJC could get to his residence, in the Edgewood community of Blue Springs, in half the time Prairie Township could from its sole station in unincorporated Jackson County.
“It is 5.8 miles from my driveway to your (fire station) door.”
An automatic-aid agreement, if approved by CJC, would allow the two fire districts to both respond to the same emergency call within a certain geographical area, in this case the southern part of Blue Springs that extends from Moreland School Road to Colbern Road. This south Missouri 7 corridor within Blue Springs city limits is covered by Prairie Township.
Automatic-aid agreements have been reached between Prairie Township and CJC districts in the past, according to Georgiann Manz of Blue Springs, who also has a residence under the Prairie Township district. But McLane told those in attendance at the board meeting “there are always conditions to these kind of agreements,” which lead to their dissolution.
“We’re not the ones that stopped them (auto-aid agreements) before.”
The most recent auto-aid agreement was enacted for four months in 2013 between the two districts, but it was terminated by CJC’s Board of Directors because of Prairie Township not providing strategic planning “that would identify specific goals, action items and time frames for your District to improve response time and the overall levels of service,” wrote CJC Board of Directors Chairman John Hardy in a memo to the district. The need in seeing strategic planning from Prairie Township, he added, was so the CJC Board could explain to “our patrons why tax dollars generated from our jurisdiction are being used automatically to serve the needs of patrons in a different district.” However, a mutual aid agreement - in which one can ask the other for equipment or personnel aid - established between the two districts in 2001 remained in effect.
McClane also proposed the idea of Prairie Township forming an independent panel that would be composed of fire officials outside the district to review response times and how to improve service. And on top of that, he also offered to set up private appointments with Blue Springs residents within his district to discuss concerns they may have with Prairie Township.
“This (history between CJC and Prairie Township that goes back to 2006) has taken a lot energy from a lot of people,” he said.
In a document provided by Manz entitled “Notes from Lee’s Summit Dispatch,” refers to a house fire call at the 4200 block of 14th Street in Blue Springs that is under Prairie Township made on Dec. 13, 2011. The document writes that it took 42 minutes until a major fire company arrived at the scene of the fire.
According to the document, “Time is frequently lost over calls going to the wrong department. Dispatch picks up that it is Blue Springs City so calls go to CJC and then have to be re-routed to Lee’s Summit dispatch who then calls Prairie.”
The 911 call on the Dec. 13 house fire was placed at 10:42 a.m., the document wrote. Prairie Township received the call a minute later and arrived at the scene at 10:54 a.m., making it 11 minutes when Prairie Township arrived.
Prairie Township Chief Larry Robinson said he was skeptical about the authenticity of the document’s records and Assistant Chief Chris Tindall said this is the kind of issue the independent panel will address.
“The panel will investigate the re-routing of calls,” Tindall said. “Where did it bounce to? Where did it go?”
Blue Springs Councilwoman Susan Culpepper, who attended the board meeting, thinks Prairie Township reaching out for an auto-aid agreement with CJC is “great.”
“It’s matter of priorities,” she said in regard to the two districts and their emergency services. “All residents in Blue Springs deserve good, full coverage.”
Asked whether Manz would reconsider de-annexing her property from Prairie Township now that it offered another auto-aid agreement between CJC, she replied “no comment.”
“These kind of agreements come and go,” she said. “The city of Blue Springs ultimately wants one emergency service for the whole city. De-annexation can take awhile.”