Leavenworth County commissioners are requesting that a Joint Board meet to possibly reconsider recent actions related to Leavenworth County Fire District No. 1.

Leavenworth County commissioners are requesting that a Joint Board meet to possibly reconsider recent actions related to Leavenworth County Fire District No. 1.

Commissioners discussed the request Wednesday during a work session.

Leavenworth County Fire District No. 1 provides fire department services to the city of Lansing and Delaware and High Prairie townships.

The Joint Board appoints people to serve on the fire district’s five-member Board of Trustees. The Joint Board is made up of the Lansing mayor, two members of the Lansing City Council, the Delaware Township trustee and the High Prairie Township trustee.

The Joint Board was created through a 2003 interlocal agreement between the Leavenworth County government, Lansing and the two townships.

Lansing officials have expressed an intention to withdraw the city from Fire District No. 1 and establish a city fire department. City officials have announced they plan to terminate the 2003 interlocal agreement.

Lansing officials have argued the assets of Fire District No. 1 should be divided among the parties upon termination of the agreement. But Leavenworth County District Judge David King has ruled termination of the agreement cannot be used to require apportionment of the assets of the fire district.

In 2003, the Joint Board approved a resolution stating the Fire District No. 1’s governing board should be made up of three Lansing residents, one resident of Delaware Township and one resident of High Prairie Township.

The Joint Board has followed this practice in the past. But during a Jan. 22 meeting, the Joint Board voted to appoint an additional Lansing resident to the fire district board instead of a Delaware Township resident. These actions were approved by the Joint Board’s Lansing representatives, who make up a majority of the board.

As a result, four of the five members of the Fire District No. 1 Board of Trustees are now Lansing residents. The remaining member is from the High Prairie Township. A resident of the Delaware Township no longer serves on the fire district board.

Ahead of Wednesday’s work session, the Leavenworth County Commission received a request from the Delaware Township Board asking commissioners to reverse the recent appointments made by the Joint Board.

Todd Farley, chief of Leavenworth County Fire District No. 1, also sent a letter to commissioners asking them to take control of the fire district.

During Wednesday’s work session, Senior County Counselor David Van Parys reviewed several options that were available to county commissioners. These included a request that Lansing and the townships consent to allow the county commissioners to have the authority to designate the members of the fire district’s Board of Trustees.

Other options included seeking a court order to return management of the fire district to the County Commission.

“That is the least preferable option,” Van Parys said.

Commission Chairman Doug Smith asked if a judge’s order was required for mediation or negotiations between the parties.

Van Parys said mediation previously was unsuccessful. He said commissioners have the option of having an open discussion with the parties.

“The city wants their own fire department,” County Commissioner Chad Schimke said.

Schimke said he is not opposed to a Lansing Fire Department. But he fears this cannot be accomplished economically unless all of the existing assets for Fire District No. 1 remain together.

During the work session, commissioners heard from representatives of the city of Lansing and Delaware Township as well as recently appointed members of Fire District No. 1’s board.

Farley also addressed commissioners. He expressed concern regarding uncertainty about the fire district board.

Currently, the fire district board is scheduled to meet Feb. 24.

Farley also expressed concern about the signing of checks now that the person who previously served as the fire district’s treasurer is no longer on the board. Farley said a new treasurer has not yet been appointed.

Van Parys said he does not believe the treasurer has to be a member of the board. Van Parys said the outgoing treasurer can continue to serve in that capacity for now.

Commissioners decided to ask the members of the Joint Board to hold another meeting to see if they want to reconsider their recent appointments given the board’s earlier resolution.

Lansing City Attorney Greg Robinson questioned whether the commission’s request of the Joint Board is valid.

He said the Joint Board exists to fill vacancies on the fire district’s board.

“Those vacancies have been filled,” he said.

Robinson also said one can argue that the Joint Board’s resolution regarding the makeup of the fire district board is not legal because it alters the interlocal agreement between the county, Lansing and townships.

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