Archive for Thursday, December 15, 2005

Olathe open to merger talks with RFD

December 15, 2005

The board of Johnson County Fire District No. 3 has been invited to start discussions with the city of Olathe to find a solution to repeated requests for detachments.

The invitation came Tuesday as the district fire board approved the second of two 2005 detachments in the Woodland Road corridor. Even as the board was doing so, Olathe assistant city attorney John Miller told the board the city of Olathe would like to detach the southern portion of the Woodland Road corridor before July 1, 2006, which would make it available for that city's 2007 budget considerations.

The Woodlawn Road corridor represents the fire district's eastern extreme, and in approving the second detachment Tuesday, fire board member Jay Lang said the fire district shouldn't cross Kansas Highway 7.

But Miller said the fire board could expect other detachment requests from the Olathe City Council for other annexations in 2005 or recent years. It was time, he said, the fire board and city dealt with the situation in a comprehensive way.

"We're willing to throw everything on the table," Miller said, suggesting a merger or a service contract as possible solutions or starting points for discussion. "We are willing to discuss anything at this point."

The fire board wasn't, or at least not until board members reviewed all their options. But fire board member Kent Dvorak agreed the fire district needed to find a new relationship with the growing cities in its service area.

"I don't have an exact answer right now," Dvorak said. "We have to look at what is the level of service, the cost and how we can afford it, and current employees."

The first option to be explored is a possible consolidation with the city of De Soto, Dvorak said.

"There is merit to this discussion," he said. "We need to talk to De Soto a little more. De Soto is more logical, but we need to keep options open."

The city and the fire district have a complicated and troubled history that has led to past litigation. In 1999, the city unsuccessfully sought to detach all the fire district within the city -- a move that came on the heels of an annexation that doubled De Soto's size.

The relationship has improved in recent years. The fire district board and the De Soto City Council met in July 2004 after a Johnson County Commission initiated the meeting that included all rural fire district and their neighboring cities. The meeting provided little momentum toward a solution to the detachment/consolidation conundrum but did open communication.

At Tuesday's meeting, the fire board approved a city of De Soto request to detach the Arbor Ridge subdivision.

De Soto Mayor Dave Anderson and City Attorney Patrick Reavey were to be at Tuesday's meeting, but had to cancel because of a scheduling conflict. They would be invited to the fire board's January meeting.

Miller said Dvorak was probably right about De Soto being more logical, but once again extended an invitation for discussion. He cautioned, however, county commissioners would have the last say no matter which city the fire district chose to merge.

"The only difference is Patrick Reavey in De Soto would work on that," Miller said of a De Soto arrangement.

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