Archive for Wednesday, June 10, 2009

City to lease fire station to new fire department

June 10, 2009

In the latest move in preparation for the consolidation of local fire departments, the De Soto City Council agreed to lease the city’s current fire station to the Northwest Johnson County Consolidated Fire District when the new department comes into existence Jan. 1, 2010.

The agreement approved would lease the new fire department the part of the building that currently houses the De Soto Fire Department at no charge for 2010, 2011 and 2012. The Northwest Johnson County Consolidated Fire District will be created by the merger of the De Soto Fire Department with Johnson County Rural Fire District No. 3, which includes most of the city’s newer subdivisions and rural areas to the south and west.

The old city hall is also the home of the De Soto Chamber of Commerce. As part of the agreement, the fire district will pay utilities based on a square-foot pro-rated basis, De Soto City Administrator Pat Guilfoyle told the council.

In contrast to the city fire station, which is owned by the city, the fire stations RFD No. 3’s owns on Kill Creek Road and 135th Street will be deeded with the new consolidated fire department at the start of the year, Guilfoyle said.

On June 3, the advisory committee of two city representatives and the three fire board members that is overseeing the consolidation was given draft command structure proposals for the new department. The proposals were developed by De Soto Fire Chief Kevin Ritter, RFD No. 3 Fire Chief Terry Zahner and RFD No. 3 operations manager Mark Billquist.

One proposal would have two fire chiefs, an assistant chief of operations (Billquist), and two assistant chiefs (Mike Frehe and John Kramer). The command structure would also have three captain, an equal number of lieutenants and a volunteer assistant chief, volunteer captain, volunteer lieutenant and volunteer sergeant.

The other proposal would have a single chief, deputy fire chief, assistant fire chief of operations and two assistant fire chiefs. No names were slotted into any of the positions of the second option.

Under both proposals, the fire chief positions would be part time, as they are now in both existing departments. The operations chief would be a full-time position.

The advisory committee was told a two-chief structure could evolve into a single-chief command in a few years. That was the case in Johnson County Fire District No. 1, the committee was told.

Advisory committee members asked that Ritter, Zahner and Billquist provide more information on who would hold positions in both proposals and their salaries. The information is to be presented at the next committee meeting at 7 p.m. June 16 at De Soto City Hall.

The three men also reported a majority of firefighters would forego salary increases in 2009 and 2010 should the consolidated district switch retirement funds from the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System to the Kansas Police and Fire fund.

The Kansas Police and Fire fund would require the an employee match of 13.5 percent of salaries whereas the city current matches salaries at a 5 percent rate and RWD No. 3 at 6.54 percent rate.

The advisory committee agreed to the switch if the 13.5 percent rate was confirmed by the state and that the updated revenue estimates for the Johnson County Appraiser’s Office didn’t differ greatly from March estimates.

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