City Council may rescind notice to terminate agreement

John Richmeier

When they meet tonight, Lansing City Council members may vote to rescind their earlier notification of their intent to terminate an interlocal agreement concerning Leavenworth County Fire District No. 1.

Fire District No. 1 provides fire department services to Lansing and Delaware and High Prairie townships.

The fire district is governed by a five-member board appointed by representatives of the city and two townships. The process for appointing people to the fire district’s Board of Trustees was established through a 2003 interlocal agreement.

The agreement was signed by representatives of Lansing, the two townships, the Leavenworth County Commission and an assistant attorney general for Kansas.

The interlocal agreement includes a termination clause that allows any party to terminate the agreement by providing notice at least 18 months in advance.

Officials with the city of Lansing have expressed an intent to establish a city-operated fire department.

Lansing officials have argued the assets of the fire district should be divided among the parties upon the termination of the agreement, but this is an issue that is being disputed in court.

In June 2018, the Lansing City Council voted to send notification to various parties involved in Fire District No. 1 of the city’s intent to terminate the agreement at the end of 2019. In December 2018, the city issued a superseding notice, expressing their intent to terminate the agreement at the end of June of this year.

But City Council members may vote tonight to rescind the termination notice.

In a document prepared for tonight’s meeting, Lansing City Administrator Tim Vandall wrote that “it is important to keep the current board in place to maintain local control among the three entities (the city and two townships).”

Leavenworth County commissioners have said they believe control of the fire district will shift to them once the interlocal agreement is terminated.

Last week, county commissioners discussed establishing a new governing body for the fire district upon termination of the agreement. Inviting current members of the fire district Board of Trustees to serve on the new governing body was discussed as an option.

In 2019, attorneys for Delaware and High Prairie townships filed a lawsuit, arguing the termination provision in the 2003 interlocal agreement is contrary to state law concerning the disorganization of fire districts.

In November, District Judge David King ruled the agreement can be terminated. But the judge ruled an “interlocal agreement cannot be used to require the apportionment of all of the property of a fire district on a party’s termination of the interlocal agreement.”

King also ruled that a city seeking to withdraw from a fire district must do so in accordance with state law.

State law outlines a process in which county commissioners can be petitioned to disorganize a fire district or alter a district’s boundaries.

Attorneys for Lansing have appealed the case to the Kansas Court of Appeals.

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