Lee’s Summit Fire Chief understands priority of bond issue

tporter@lsjournal.comApril 5, 2013 

  • 17 Number of LifePaks currently in use by the Lee’s Summit Fire Department.

Keith Martin is a self-described “common sense-type person.”

The chief of the Lee’s Summit Fire Department knows the economic times aren’t conducive for many big-ticketed items, so when the replacement of LifePaks for the department and improvements to Fire Station No. 3 failed to make it onto the bond issue placed before city voters April 2, Martin buckled up his straps and headed to work the next day.

Of course city voters approved the $7.5 million bond issue that will allocate nearly $2.9 million for cultural arts facilities, including paying for improvements to the city amphitheater, renovating a 1939 post office planned to be home for the Lee’s Summit Historical Society Museum and a downtown festival venue. The remaining amount – around $4.6 million – will be used to rebuild Orchard Street and add shoulders to Pryor Road.

“A whole list of issues was presented to the council,” Martin said April 4 in an interview with Journal. “The LifePaks, streets, sewers, curbs and gutters; I mean a whole myriad of things. There were 20-plus items on the list. The council made the final decision on what to put on the bond issue and that’s what their jobs is – to direct the city. Ever since I have been here, the City Council and the city administration has always supported the public safety aspect of this town. They’ve always been very supportive of our needs and the things that we need to do to take care of the city.”

Since 1995, fire department needs have appeared on several no-tax-increase bond ballot measures. The new Station No. 6 passed in 1995; the new Station No. 7 in 2002; and reconstruction of Station No. 2 in 2007.

LifePaks are cardio monitors that the fire department carries in their ambulances and trucks. They provide 12 views of the heart. Martin said the department has 17 of them ranging from 3- to 12-years-old.

Councilmember Derek Holland, who was chairman of the ad-hoc committee which made recommendations for the bond issue, said the committee felt the LifePak units were a high priority, but that it would be wiser to purchase them with other funds instead of long-term debt.

The committee asked for City Manager Steve Arbo to find an alternative for funding that purchase as it was working on the bond package. Arbo said buying the units, which cost close to $37,000 each, is part of his general fund budget for the upcoming year.

“They told us to look for funding with the LifePaks, which we have done,” Martin said. “We have set up a plan to begin replacement of the LifePaks. We have them ranging anywhere from 12 years of age – which we feel is the time we need to start replacing them. They can go on because they are a very durable piece of equipment, but we figured 12 years is a good starting point. We’re taking the ones that are at that age now and we are going to replace them. We’re getting ready to replace five of them and we’re setting up a program. Once we meet with the City Council and the budget committee (April 12), then we will set up a program to start that process and replace them once they reach that age.”

Holland said the committee’s goal for the April election was to keep the bond issue small to save capacity for a future set of projects. He added he had wanted to restrict it to only cultural arts facilities, but other council members preferred including the two road projects as well.

Another issue that came before the committee was the aging of fire station No. 3 at Pryor Road and Third Street. Built in the 1960’s, Martin said the station, which houses a minimum of three fire department personnel per shift, is the department’s oldest and smallest station. He compared it to Fire Station No. 2. The station was replaced in 2011 for $2.6 million.

“It’s still a very functional station,” Martin said. “We want to replace it due to age. There is nothing wrong with the facility it’s just we’ve kind of outgrown it. Down the road, in the future, we want to put another unit out there with it. That’s why we had it on the (potential) ballot.”

Holland said the fire station was one of $140 million in worthy projects brought before the committee.

“We recognize that facility needs to be upgraded, but it’s in competition with other needs of the city,” he said. He noted a number of other fire department improvements had been part of previous bond issues and it is possible the fire station could be on a future bond issue, although the timing is undetermined.

“We still want to do that project but due to economics and conditions, now is not a good time,” Martin said. “There are other issues that need to be taking care of first. I understand that. We’re just waiting until the climate is right to do it. I’m a very common sense-type of person. I understand economics are not right. It doesn’t bother me at all. I would have liked to have it, but so be it. That’s fine. We’ll do it again.”

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