Kansas City for too many years has failed to make long-planned improvements to fully accommodate female employees in about a quarter of its fire stations.
As City Council member Teresa Loar properly implied this week while discussing the issue with colleagues, it’s time to get the job done. That work includes building separate bathrooms for women in several old stations, and providing improved sleeping and showering areas for them in some stations, too.
The council two years ago allocated up to $920,000 for these station upgrades. But in two subsequent rounds of bidding, contractors said they couldn’t accomplish the gender equity work for that amount of money.
Assistant Fire Chief Donna Maize said Wednesday she and others are looking into the most efficient ways to use the already available funds. That should prompt the department to make needed improvements at as many stations as possible to benefit the most women.
City Manager Troy Schulte said the city had “done the minor fixes necessary to insure gender equality” such as adding locks to bathroom and shower doors if a station didn’t have separate facilities for men and women.
That’s not a full solution, of course. Eventually, the city may have to cut something else from the current fire budget or use dollars from its general fund to finish these projects.
Kansas City needs a more diverse workforce. Modern fire stations, staffed with employees who are also trained to provide crucial emergency medical services, will help attract women to the ranks.