Commissioners learn more details about fire agreement

By Tammy Helm
Fort Scott Tribune – November 25, 2014

Once again, the Bourbon County Commissioners find themselves in the middle of a fire district debate. This time, commissioners have been asked to cancel a contract that ensures fire coverage for residents living west of Fort Scott Lake. During their meeting Monday, commissioners learned that one of the fire districts involved doesn’t agree with canceling the contract.

On Nov. 17, Delwin Mumbower Bourbon County Fire District No. 3 chief, and Louella Howard, Hiattville Fire Department chief, attended a commission meeting asking for a contract agreement between District No. 3 and Scott Township Fire District No. 5 to be ended. Mumbower said because there are mutual aid agreements in place, the contract is no longer necessary. Although commissioners did not make a decision, Commission Chairman Allen Warren asked for a letter from Scott Township.

“We had no idea of canceling this contract,” Don Banwart, Scott Township clerk, said Monday. He also represents Scott Township Fire District No. 5.

He said the contract means more than which fire department is responsible for coverage — it’s also about money.

The area in question is the west side of Lake Fort Scott, which divides the fire districts. He said residents on the south side are in the District No. 5. Even though Fort Scott Airport is not in the district, the city of Fort Scott requested those residents be included in District No. 5. Instead of changing the fire district boundary lines to include that portion, the agreement was made for District No. 3 to collect the tax money and pay District No. 5.

“They collect the money at the current rate,” Banwart said. “We’ve never increased the rate of the agreement. We’re getting the rate from seven years ago when it was established. They pocket part of the money and then pay us the $24,000, or what the agreement is.”

He said the amount established in the agreement is a fourth of the district’s budget.

“So that’s a big loss for us,” Banwart said.

Later, Banwart said District No. 5 was the only fire district to cut its tax rate this year and there are no paid fire department employees.

He said eliminating the contract also means those residents in the covered area will see their insurance rates double because of the fire rating, which is determined by the distance of the nearest fire station. Those residents would go from a Class 6 to a Class 9.

Banwart said without the agreement, those residents’ rating would be based on the distance from the Hiattville station, which he said is almost twice as far.

“It’s done on the way to get there and you can see (on a map) the way to get there almost doubles from Hiattville,” Banwart.

Second District Commissioner Barbara Albright said she thought the commissioners had asked Mumbower and Howard if they’d spoken to Scott Township officials, but Banwart said they did not.

“As far as the commissioners actually having a dog in this fight, the agreement is between the two, not between the commissioners and the fire districts,” Third District Commissioner Harold Coleman said.

“But why did we have to give the OK?” Albright asked.

“Out of courtesy to us so we can be informed on what’s going on, but we don’t actually have a dog in this fight,” Coleman said. “We do for the citizens, but as far as this…”

Banwart said District No. 5 is in the process of constructing a fire station in that area on property currently owned by the City of Fort Scott.

“We want to put a fire station here so these people can get really good rates,” Banwart said. “All we’ve got to do is put one engine in that station and if you’re within five miles of that station, you get the best rate you possibly can.”

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