Fire departments discuss merger
The city of Tonganoxie and Stranger Township will at least explore the possibility of creating a new fire district.
On Monday, Tonganoxie Fire Chief Dave Bennett told city council members that he'd been approached by Stranger Fire Chief Ben Hayes about the two departments forming a fire district. Bennett said he had talked individually with several council members and with the mayor last summer. And now, he said, Hayes has again expressed interest in the idea.
Bennett said that while he thought the idea was worth exploring, he had no strong feelings one way or the other.
"I can see the benefits," he said. "I can see some difficulties."
He does think the township and the city should talk about how each group's plans for new fire stations and staffing would affect the other.
While city council member Ron Cranor said he thought Stranger Township Board members should approach city council members -- rather than having the issue come through the fire chiefs -- Mayor Dave Taylor said he saw no problem with how the issue was brought to the city's attention.
"I'd just as soon the fire chiefs talk with each other and keep it out of politics," Taylor said.
And council member Velda Roberts said she thought the fire chiefs could prepare a document that could outline the benefits and the pitfalls of such a plan.
"It's still our decision and their board's decision," she said.
Bennett said he would ask a representative or representatives to attend the council's March 14 meeting.
Leavenworth County Commissioner Dean Oroke, who was present at Monday night's meeting, said he thought council members should understand that if a fire district is formed, it would have a governing board that is independent from the city and the township.
"If a fire district is created, the total valuation within that fire district, that funding is totally controlled and approved by that fire district board," he said. "The township board, nor the city council has any control over funding."