The Prairie Township Fire Protection District is still seeking a solution to improve service and response times.
While voters in both districts last year shot down consolidation with the Lake Lotawana Fire Protection District due to a difference in property tax rates, Prairie Township Fire Chief Bill Large said consolidation is still Plan A, with Plan B being Prairie Township tackling putting a fire station on Wyatt Road in southern Blue Springs on its own. To figure out how best to resolve the situation, Large, who also serves as Lake Lotawana chief, said officials are reaching out to the community for feedback on how to proceed.
Large said the biggest issue the district faces is an extended response time for emergencies, which they were trying to address with consolidation.
“That didn’t come through, so we’re still evaluating,” said Large.
The average goal for response times is approximately seven to eight minutes, according to Large, and the station is currently dealing with nine to 12-minute response times from its location at the Milton-Thompson and Langsford roads just east of Lee’s Summit, occasionally reaching the 15-minute mark depending on the distance of the call.
The solution, placing a station on Wyatt Road, would potentially cut response times to the range of three to five minutes, moving the district’s average from above to well below the goal.
“Consolidation with a little bit of a tax increase for debt service would have allowed us to put people in the building and build the station,” said Large. “We had the support to the north; some of the voters to the south didn’t feel as strongly about that station being built up here.“
While the concerns for consolidation revolved around taxes, the hurdles facing the idea of Prairie Township adding a station entirely on its own face the same issues, with a tax increase being necessary to adequately staff the building to the point where it would be a benefit to the community.
“You could open the station with minimum staffing, but that’s not good for the citizens or the firefighters,” he said. Whether it’s through a consolidation or by Prairie Township’s own grit, Large said he intends to have full-time staff augmented by a single part-time position.
Large said the district will be forming a committee of citizens to give feedback on the situation and let the district know what they feel will be the best plan moving forward, with representation from the north, south and middle of Prairie Township.
“We’d like some representation from each that are willing to come in with an open mind and review the plan and give us honest feedback,” said Large. “I’d like to get the committee together and have a clear path by year end, that we can get moving forward. If consolidation is not the way to go, then we need the feedback. How do we do this as Prairie Township?”