Trial set in fire district case

John Richmeier

A trial has been scheduled in a case that could decide who controls Leavenworth County Fire District No. 1.

The trial is scheduled for Oct. 7 in Leavenworth County District Court, according to court records.

A judge will hear arguments regarding a petition for a declaratory judgment filed on behalf of the Leavenworth County commissioners.

The petition argues the commissioners should have control of Fire District No. 1 because an interlocal agreement concerning the fire department has been terminated.

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

Currently, the fire district is governed by a board whose five members were appointed by representatives of Lansing and the two townships.

The process for appointing people to the fire district’s Board of Trustees was established through a 2003 interlocal agreement that was signed by representatives of Lansing, the two townships and the County Commission as well as an assistant attorney general for Kansas.

County commissioners argue the interlocal agreement has now expired because the Lansing City Council gave notice in December 2018 that they intended to terminate the agreement at the end of June of this year. And commissioners argue that under the law, control of the fire district should shift to them.

The 2003 agreement allows any party to terminate the agreement by providing notice at least 18 months in advance.

Lansing officials have expressed an intent to eventually establish a city-operated fire department.

City officials have argued that termination of the agreement should result in the fire district’s assets being divided among the parties. But this is an issue being disputed in a separate court case that is now before the Kansas Court of Appeals.

In June, members of the Lansing City Council voted to rescind their earlier notice of termination of the interlocal agreement. Council members believed this would leave the existing Board of Trustees in control of the fire district.

However, county commissioners argue the interlocal agreement does not allow a party to unilaterally withdraw a termination notice.

The petition for declaratory judgment was filed to seek a judge’s ruling regarding whether the agreement has expired.

In late June, District Judge David King listened to arguments for a temporary injunction in the case.

Senior County Counselor David Van Parys had requested the temporary injunction to prevent other parties from interfering with the county’s management of Fire District No. 1 and to prohibit the existing Board of Trustees from maintaining control over fire district records and equipment.

King denied this motion and issued an order that allows the Board of Trustees to continue to oversee Fire District No. 1 while the case is pending.

The trial was scheduled Tuesday during a case management conference.

The trial will be before the judge without a jury, according to court records.

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