City, fire district finally discover common ground
It appears the De Soto City Council members and the Johnson County Fire District No. 3 Board have found a framework on which they can finally make progress toward a merger.
The fire board presented the council with an agreement between two rural fire districts in Leavenworth County and the city of Lansing as a model for unifying the two local departments. The fire board's action was in response to an invitation for the city to resume talks.
When the council's offer was made, it came with the understanding the council wanted the combined fire department governing body to be representative of and responsible to the unified district's population and tax base. In other words, the council wanted the majority on that body to live in De Soto and appointed by some other means than the Johnson County Commission.
That last point is basic for accountability. De Soto and the fire district don't have enough voters to retain or oust their own representative on the county commission, John Toplikar, much less the county chair or five other commissioners representing other districts.
The agreement the fire board offered and endorsed as a framework for further talks would seem to accomplish both those goals.
The sign of movement is welcome. It is hoped the council also agrees to move ahead with talks with the framework suggested by the fire board. There are thorny issues to be resolved, particularly with the city of Olathe concerning fire district territory within that city, but for the first time it appears there is a mutual understanding of how and what needs done.