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Final KC fire stations will be outfitted to accommodate women

FRED BLOCHER/The Kansas City Star_081307_Monday afternoon's crew of Rescue 31 checked out some of the equipment the new unit holds at Fire Station #17 at 34th Street and The Paseo. The truck even holds an inflatable boat and outboard engine (left center).

cutline: The Kansas City Fire Department’s new heavy rescue trucks are outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment. On Monday, the crew at Station 17 checked out some of the gadgets.
FRED BLOCHER/The Kansas City Star_081307_Monday afternoon's crew of Rescue 31 checked out some of the equipment the new unit holds at Fire Station #17 at 34th Street and The Paseo. The truck even holds an inflatable boat and outboard engine (left center). cutline: The Kansas City Fire Department’s new heavy rescue trucks are outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment. On Monday, the crew at Station 17 checked out some of the gadgets. /The Kansas City Star

Eleven years after Kansas City agreed in a lawsuit settlement to accommodate women in its fire stations, it’s finally set to complete the job.

The City Council is expected to vote today to spend $770,000 in fire safety sales tax money to modify restrooms, showers and sleeping areas in nine remaining fire stations that still do not have accommodations for women employees. The work is expected to take about a year.

That measure also calls for the city to spend $150,000 to make eight fire stations accessible to disabled people as part of an ongoing upgrade of city facilities to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Members of the council’s Finance and Governance Committee endorsed the plan Wednesday but questioned why the female accommodations took so long after a 2001 judgment against the city for gender discrimination.

“That does seem, even for the city, like quite a long time,” Councilman John Sharp said.

Deputy Chief Donna Maize said the department developed a plan for all its facilities in 2003 and has done the female accommodations methodically through 34 stations since then.

“It’s a significant amount of work,” she said.

The final stations to receive the work will be 7, 8, 30, 34, 37, 38, 40, 44 and 47.

The ordinance also provides money to accommodate disabled people in fire stations 6, 8, 10, 17, 29, 39, 40 and 41, which were audited by the Department of Justice in 2010 for compliance with the ADA.

Meg Conger, the city’s ADA coordinator, said that although firefighters are “able-bodied,” the stations are still public buildings and must be accessible to the public, even though the public rarely goes there except for tours.

“I researched it,” she said. “The DOJ does not grant exceptions for fire stations.”

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