The 41-year-old Stilwell station house is cramped and crowded — so small that Fire District No. 2 had to lease space for its septic system in the backyard of a neighboring property. But next year, the firefighters, paramedics and administrators who work there may get some breathing room.
The district hopes to build a new firehouse that will allow more room for the fire district that serves southeast Johnson County. On Thursday the county commission will consider whether to allow the fire district to issue about $2.7 million in bonds to build a new facility at 19120 Metcalf Ave.
The new building is just less than a half mile north of the current one at 19495 Metcalf Ave., but it would be substantially bigger, said Chief Jim Francis.
Because the current 8,000-square-foot station was built for the Asbury volunteer force, it didn’t have to be as big as a full-time station where a rotating staff lives on-site, Francis said. The current facility, on less than an acre of land, had to lease space for a new septic system once it became full-time, he said.
Although it’s been added onto and remodeled twice, the space still doesn’t come close to being adequate for the eight or nine people there during the day, Francis said. Administrative records have to be piled in boxes or stored off-site, he said. And there are stormwater runoff problems because the station is in a low spot, he said.
The new building will be about 13,000 square feet.
When it came up for discussion last week, Commissioner Michael Ashcraft questioned the new station’s proximity to the new Overland Park fire station being built near 163rd Street and Antioch Road about 41/2 miles away.
“I’d like some assurances we’re not building a building that’s going to be virtually across the street,” Ashcraft said.
He also asked whether the fire district and Overland Park have studied the most efficient way to provide service in the unincorporated areas without redundancies.
So far there’s no combined future plan, but officials keep each other informed, said Francis. “Nobody has a crystal ball telling us what fire service is going to evolve into,” he said. “Our district understands the Stilwell area may evolve from a fire protection standpoint into something else 10, 15, 20, 25 years from now.”
But Francis said that the distance is still significant for residents in the southeast part of the county who rely on Fire District No. 2. Without a fire station within 5 road miles, residents would pay the highest insurance premiums, he said.
“The bottom line is this station is needed in that community,” Francis said.