Second county fire district formed

By Dale Hogg
Great Bend Tribune – May 15, 2018

Following a lengthy public hearing, the Barton County Commission Monday morning approved the organization of a new fire district in the county. Fire District Number Two consists of Albion, Eureka, North Homestead, South Homestead and Union townships, and the cities of Hoisington, Olmitz and Susank.

In addition, the resolution called for the creation of a board of trustees to consist of from three to nine members representing each township and city in the district. The board is empowered to conduct the district’s business,including making an annual tax levy, not to exceed nine mills, upon all the taxable tangible property within the district, County Administrator Phil Hathcock said.

Upon initial appointment, four members were selected to serve for a term ending on Dec. 31, 2019, with five serving one full calendar year later (2020). All terms are uncompensated.

The only party to the district that has not put forward a board nominee is Union Township.

Named were: Sarah Younger, Albion Township, term to 2019; Michael McCurry, Eureka Township, to 2019; Richard Lacey, North Homestead, term to 2020; Brandon Yeakley, South Homestead, term to 2020; Shannon Donovan, City of Hoisington, term to 2020; Curtis Peterson, City of Olmitz, term to 2019; and Jackie DeBusk, City of Susank, term to 2019.

“We are one of the cities that has expressed support for this,” Hoisington City Manager Jonathan Mitchell said. He noted that the project has been in the works for a year and half.

In fact, all of the eight entities involved back the idea, he said. “We have heard no concerns.”

However, Commissioner Kenny Schremmer said he has heard grumbling about the potential for a nine-mill tax to fund the district. “My phone has been ringing off the wall.”

Mitchell said he understood, saying the intention is to keep the mill levy around three mills. “But, that is up to the board.”

Still, he said the folks involved are pretty conservative. “We’re not going to have a runaway governing body.”

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for anyone who goes out and fights fires,” commission Chairwoman Jennifer Schartz said. But, she added, she is a little gun shy regarding the taxation, recalling Barton Community College that first promised only three mills and is now at 30.

“This is out of our hands,” she said.

Mitchell assured commissioners the district board must adhere to the same rules as any governing body. Budgets will require public hearings and input, as well as publication before approval.

A long time coming

The matter has been on the on the commission’s plate for over a year. “I know this has been a long process,” Mitchell said.

But, it was important to act as soon as possible so the board could meet and get the budget set.

State law requires that the board have a minimum of three members and maximum on nine. This district already has seven and there is no deadline to fill the final opening.

This resolution follows one passed in March setting the date for the hearing. After it was published three times in the Great Bend Tribune, there was a public comment period.

In addition to the county, each of the communities in the district had to OK a resolution to join.

The fire district was a topic of a meeting last February at the Hoisington Fire Department that included fire chiefs from the impacted area. Mitchell and Hoisington Fire Chief Jerry Stricker, who spoke then, have advocated for this change since.

According to information presented at that meeting, the Hoisington Fire Department now falls under City of Hoisington. The city provides most of the funding but, in addition, the department also has five-year contracts to serve Albion, Eureka, North Homestead, South Homestead and Union townships covering over 150 square miles.

In a district, the department would no longer be a part of the city. Instead, it would be a function of the district which would be a stand-alone taxing entity within the county budget.

Claflin has been a part of Claflin Fire District Number One since 1956, and it encompasses the far northeastern corner of Barton County. It takes in Beaver, Cleveland, Independent, Cheyenne (and Cheyenne Bottoms) and Logan townships, and also the communities of Beaver, Hitschmann, Odin and Redwing.

The County Commission serves as the board for District Number One.

In the cases of the other communities that are not a part of a district, such as Ellinwood and Great Bend, they contract with the townships.


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
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