As the western part of Wyandotte County grows, so too will its demands on the Fire Department.
Keeping up with that demand, driven ever higher by home-building around the intersection of Interstates 70 and 435, may mean building new fire stations or shifting resources to better cover territory, according to a group of consultants reviewing the county’s public safety services.
The consultants delivered that message to the Unified Government last week and recommended that the Kansas City, Kan., Fire Department consider combining some fire stations, building new ones and charging fees for fire prevention services that now come free.
Most of those ideas won’t be acted on immediately. The Unified Government commissioners said they planned to hear input from the firefighters union and the public before voting on major decisions next year.
The new ideas also prompted questions from some commissioners, who pushed back against changes that could affect their constituents. Particularly sensitive was a proposal to move resources out of Fire Station 10, at 2210 W. 36th Ave. The station sits just a fifth of a mile west of the state line and about a mile north of the county line.
“Right now, Station 10 is very close to an area where they won’t normally operate” said Kevin Roche, a founder of Facets Consulting. “Fire stations should be spread out through the community like a net.”
But that station lies in the 3rd District, represented by Commissioner Ann Murguia, who questioned the wisdom of weakening it by moving any firefighters or fire trucks out. Murguia pointed out that the station is also close to the University of Kansas Hospital and a densely populated area.
The consultants said that the station should remain open but that it could spare a truck and some firefighters to cover other areas.
Among the most visible changes would be the construction of stations. The advisers from Phoenix-based Facets Consulting mapped out two new fire stations to serve the western part of the county: one between 115th and 107th streets on Hollingsworth Road, and another near 99th Street and Donahoo Road.
The consultants also spoke of combining two fire stations into a new facility on 55th Street between Metropolitan Avenue and Oak Grove Road, and two others into a new facility near 18th Street and Kansas Avenue.
The department also should plan on upgrades to its fleet of aging trucks, the consultants said. The department may explore increased cooperation with Kansas City and Johnson County departments.
In the future, a fee could be charged for fire prevention services — mandated inspections, construction plan reviews and permits — that are now provided free.
The consultants also gathered public feedback.
“The only negative that we heard is that the fire department can be perceived as an unwelcoming place when it comes to employment opportunities for some parts of the community,” Roche said.
The Unified Government received a report this summer that though Wyandotte’s population increasingly is diverse, its police and fire agencies still are mostly white and male.
The board responded by approving some measures to recruit more minorities and women.