Board members of the Prairie Township Fire Protection District can expect some heat Wednesday evening, when a group of south Blue Springs residents asks to have their property de-annexed so they can get emergency services from another fire district.
Prairie Township is a small rural fire department wedged between the Central Jackson County and Lake Lotawana fire protection districts, and is on the eastern edge of Lee’s Summit.
A group formed to push for de-annexation, The South Blue Springs Citizens for Emergency Services, plans to submit 697 petitions the Prairie Township board, said Georgiann Manz, a member of the group.
“We don’t expect them to let us do this. They’ve been fighting us three years,” Manz said.
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The Blue Springs residents would rather be served by the Central Jackson County district because its stations are closer their homes than is Prairie Township’s one fire station, about six miles away on Milton Thompson Road. The area in contention is south of Liggett Road, an area that includes more than 300 homes in the Edgewood, Southgate and Lake Village subdivisions of Blue Springs.
The Central Jackson County district covers most of Blue Springs north of Liggett Road
Manz said that after several major fires in the part of south Blue Springs covered by Prairie Township, residents realized its fire station is too far from their homes to give adequate protection.
“Physically there’s no way for (Prairie Township) to get to my house in less than 10 and one-half minutes, even if everything goes smooth,” Manz said.
Prairie Township Fire Chief Larry Robinson said he is disappointed the effort has gone this far. He said the proponents of de-annexation have been distributing false information regarding fire data.
“There’s a faction that just won’t listen to what the facts are,” Robinson said.
Robinson said he thinks the district is on pretty good footing to ultimately win the dispute.
The meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday in the Prairie Township Fire Protection District headquarters at 11010 Milton Thompson Road.
Manz said the group expects to have witnesses and homeowners speak of responses that were delayed by the distance and caused major fire losses.
If the Prairie Township board refuses the request, the next step will be for the homeowners’ group ask a judge for an August election on de-annexation, Manz said. She said the goup also has gathered 593 referendum requests.
If the board does vote to drop the area from its coverage, Central Jackson County would have to approve annexing it.
Lee’s Summit provides dispatch services for Prairie Township, via contract, and also provides mutual aid.
If the de-annexation effort is successful, it wouldn’t have any serious near term effect on Lee’s Summit, said interim Lee’s Summit Fire Chief Rick Poeschl. He said Lee’s Summit officials have not taken a stance on the issue, because there are too many unknowns.
In the longer run, because of lost tax revenue for Prairie Township, de-annexation could cause a shuffle of who provides services to residents living in the county and how it’s done. If Prairie township’s ability to provide service suffers, movements could begin for more de-annexations or for mergers with surrounding districts.
A situation could develop over time where a city like Lee’s Summit could find itself providing an excessive number of mutual aid calls on its outskirts, and officials would have an option of trying to annex the area so the city would get tax revenue.
A successful de-annexation effort would affect the Prairie Township district’s finances, but not immediately, Chief Robinson said, because residents of the de-annexed area by law would still pay taxes to Prairie Township for several years to give it time for transition.
“Our budget is pretty tight,” Robinson said. “The way we operate doesn’t leave a lot of room for error.”