Residency requirements

By Patrick Lowry
Hays Daily News – May 22, 2017

When public safety emergencies occur, response time is of the essence. Which is why the City of Hays long has singled out non-clerical personnel at the fire and police departments as well as other emergency-related positions by requiring them to live in the city or at least within the 3-mile planning boundary.

The ordinance makes sense.

But it also comes with a trade-off: Recruitment and retention of public safety employees is made more difficult because of the residency requirement. For that reason, city staff has proposed changing the paradigm from a distance-based requirement to a response-time model.

“We feel like if we open this up a little bit, we’ll have a larger applicant pool,” Assistant City Manager Jacob Wood said at last week’s City Commission work session.

Commissioners expressed support for considering such a change, but didn’t appear keen on relaxing residency requirements for city employees in other departments. Nor did there appear to be widespread appeal for having the city manager determine residency standards on a case-by-case basis.

We would think a reasonable compromise can be found. But we also believe the response-time model should retain a distance component: The Ellis County line. We find it a reasonable expectation that an employee of the City of Hays should at least add to the county’s tax base.

With Victoria, Ellis, Schoenchen and others so close to Hays, and with various housing developments (existing or planned), there should be enough smaller, nearby communities to choose from.

Whatever the distance determined for each hard-to-fill public safety position, it should be approved in advance by the commission. Elected officials do need to set policies for staff to implement.

Should relaxed residency requirements not allow enough tools for the fire and police departments to attract and retain full complements, commissioners then might be forced to consider revising monetary-based incentives.


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
KSFFA’s Fire News Blog Home Page

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