Fire district merger goes to voters
Residents of two local fire protection districts will have another chance Tuesday to vote on a proposed consolidation.
Two years ago, the Prairie Township and Lotawana fire protection districts asked voters to approve a merger – citing the improved response times and better use of resources they believed could be realized – but it failed decisively with Prairie Township voters and by one vote with Lotawana voters. Both fire districts have to approve the merger for it to happen.
The Prairie Township district includes a portion of southern Blue Springs, where some citizens for years have grumbled about response times from the district’s station at Langsford and Milton-Thompson roads just east of Lee's Summit. The Lotawana station is on Lotawana Road just south of Colbern Road, on the north side of Lake Lotawana.
Chief Bill Large, who has guided the Lotawana department for many years and about four years ago also took over as the Prairie Township chief, said the south Blue Springs neighborhoods and the houses around the south part of Lake Lotawana would stand to benefit the most. Lotawana’s station is closer to the Blue Springs neighborhoods, by three to four minutes, Large said, and that includes his own home. Prairie Township’s station is closer to some homes on the lake’s south side.
“For me, that would be a drastic change in response,” Large said.
The merged agency would be called the Southern Jackson County Fire Protection District. The property tax levy would be $1.04 per $100 of assessed valuation – Prairie Township’s current levy. That is 1 cent below Lotawana’s current levy.
The Prairie Township district, established in 1954, covers 32 square miles east of Lee's Summit, including portions of Lake Lotawana and south Blue Springs (extending about a block south of Liggett Road east of Missouri 7) and unincorporated areas of Jackson County, extending just south of U.S. 50. The Lotawana district generally encircles the lake. Most of Blue Springs is covered by the Central Jackson County Fire Protection District.
In a joint letter to citizens, the chairmen of both districts’ boards of directors, Mike Boinski (Lotawana) and Carl Allison (Prairie Township) said a merger would result in better service overall.
“It is a known fact that the demand for fire services is increasing while revenues are decreasing,” they wrote. “There will always be fires to fight, victims to treat, and a host of other activities to be conducted in today’s progressive fire service. Combining resources is a way to provide the personnel, apparatus, and equipment needed to safely function at the emergency scene.
Boinski and Allison noted that in addition to better response times, consolidation would provide more flexibility with staff assignments, save some administrative costs and could also net a better insurance rating, which helps homeowner costs.
Two years ago, the ballot also included separate contingent questions for bonds to pay for a new station in Prairie Township’s area, as well as a sales tax and accompanying property tax rollback for additional revenue. Both also got voted down. This ballot does not include any question tax or levy question.
Large said the Prairie Township district still has long-term plans for additional stations off Wyatt Road in Blue Springs – the city bought the land to be leased for that purpose – and just south of U.S. 50.
“It will happen quicker with the consolidation of the two, but it’s something that we’ll always have on our radar,” Large said.
The International Association of Fire Firefighters, Local 3133, whose members includes the Prairie Township district, has also thrown its support behind the merger, something Large said didn’t happen two years ago.
“There seems to be a little more support” this time, he said. “We believe there’s a pretty good opportunity.”
ELECTION ON TUESDAY
Missouri vote in a primary election on Tuesday. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.