Leavenworth County officials are arguing a provision in an agreement that established Leavenworth County Fire District No. 1 is invalid.

Leavenworth County officials are arguing a provision in an agreement that established Leavenworth County Fire District No. 1 is invalid.

Officials with the city of Lansing are attempting to use this provision to terminate the 2003 agreement. But in a court document filed this week on behalf of Leavenworth County, Senior County Counselor David Van Parys argues the termination provision of the agreement is contrary to public policy and deprives landowners of a right they have under state law.

Van Parys written argument was filed in a lawsuit that was initiated earlier this year by attorneys for Delaware and High Prairie townships.

Fire District No. 1 provides services to the two townships and the city of Lansing. The district is governed by a board of five appointed members from the city and two townships.

Lansing officials have announced an intent to operate a Lansing Fire Department instead of continuing to rely on services from Fire District No. 1.

The fire district was set up through the 2003 agreement, which was signed by representatives of Lansing, the two townships and the Leavenworth County Commission as well as an assistant attorney general for the state of Kansas.

A paragraph in the agreement states “any party may terminate this agreement by providing to the other parties written notice of its intention to terminate the agreement.” The agreement calls for the notice to be provided at least 18 months in advance.

In June 2018, the mayor and members of the Lansing City Council sent a letter to various parties involved in Fire District No. 1 indicating the city intended to end its relationship with Fire District No. 1 at the end of 2019.

This later was superseded by another letter from Lansing Mayor Mike Smith that indicated the city is terminating the agreement in June 2020.

In January, attorneys for Delaware and High Prairie townships filed a petition in Leavenworth County District Court to seek a declaratory judgment. The attorneys have asked a judge to rule the termination provision in the 2003 agreement is null and void.

The lawsuit named the city of Lansing as a defendant, but the Leavenworth County government initially was not named as a party in the court action.

Leavenworth County was named in an amended petition filed this summer after District Judge David King ruled the County Commission should have been included in the lawsuit.

In the court document he filed this week, Van Parys argues the authority to create a fire district is vested in county commissions by state law.

“The authority to dissolve or alter boundaries of a fire district, once created, is likewise vested in the boards of county commissioners,” Van Parys wrote.

Van Parys argues Lansing city officials are asking the judge to interpret the 2003 agreement in a way that would allow the city to withdraw from the contract and cause the division of the fire district’s assets and liabilities.

“The county submits that the withdrawal of the city and the division of the assets of Fire District No. 1 would serve to effectively either dissolve Fire District No. 1 or alter its boundaries,” Van Parys wrote.

Van Parys argues the termination provision of the 2003 agreement tied the hands of future county commissioners and should be considered void because it is contrary to public policy.

Van Parys also argues, under state law, landowners would have the right to file a petition to protest a county resolution that removed the city of Lansing from Fire District No. 1. But Van Parys argues the termination provision in the 2003 agreement denies landowners this right.

In his written argument, Van Parys also states the city of Lansing has another remedy for dissolving Fire District No. 1. He states the County Commission can be petitioned to disorganize Fire District No. 1, and the city has submitted such a petition.

The city of Lansing and Delaware and High Prairie townships have been given an Oct. 24 deadline to file responses. A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 14, according to court documents.

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