Archive for Thursday, March 13, 2008

Council hears update on fire district, business growth

March 13, 2008

The Lansing City Council received two briefings in a regular meeting Thursday, March 6 an annual report from Leavenworth County Fire District No. 1 Chief Rick Huhn and a quarterly update from Steve Jack, executive director of the Leavenworth County Development Corp.

Huhn began his presentation by saying Fire District No. 1 is responsible for 78 square miles in central Leavenworth County with one station located on East Kansas Street in Lansing and one in the High Prairie Township.

Dispatchers received 908 total calls in 2007, with 635 of those or 70 percent coming from the city of Lansing. Calls included fire calls, medical calls, rescues, gas leaks, calls for assistance, calls in regard to power lines and false alarms.

Lansing received 67 percent of the fire district's $331,000 annual income last year, and after reported increases of around one-tenth of a mill each year, the district's levy jumped from 3.767 mills last year to 4.290 in 2008.

For a resident with a $150,000 home, that's an approximately $9 increase in property taxes each year.

Huhn explained the unusual increase accounted for an additional full-time employee, bringing staff up to five career personnel and 25 volunteers.

He said, because of increased manpower and equipment, the Insurance Services Office (I.S.O.) rating in the district, which has a direct effect on insurance premiums paid by homeowners and business owners, has decreased over the past three years.

Future goals for the fire district, according to Huhn, include building two new fire stations one in northern High Prairie and one near the planned Lansing City Park on Gilman Road. He also suggested replacing two vehicles by 2010, adding an additional staff person every one to two years at a pay rate of $55,000 annually and possibly adding an aerial truck to the district's fleet at around $650,000.

Huhn said the upgrades would improve the city's I.S.O. rating but not without taking "buckets of money and ... throwing it in."

He added that with the city's I.S.O. where it is currently, further declines would only affect business owners.

"For a resident of Lansing, it's as low as it's going to get," Huhn said.

Council member Tom Smith asked how a planned countywide communications upgrade would affect Fire District No. 1's budget.

Huhn said the department might eventually have to spend up to $90,000 on portable and mobile radios that would function on the county's 800-megahertz frequency and would give firefighters interoperability throughout the county.

Jack, in his report Thursday, reviewed LCDC activities over a four-month period including an annual dinner in December and a casino night in February.

Marketing and networking opportunities mentioned included a feature article in Kansas City, Mo-based Commercial Journal, a trip to Los Angeles to meet with nine site location specialists there and a Washington D.C. trip to discuss local projects with the area's congressional delegation.

In terms of business leads, Jack highlighted 55 prospects in 2007 and said that eight are still active. Of those 55 prospects, 42 percent were manufacturers, 12 percent were customer service facilities, 10 percent specialized in warehousing and distribution, 10 percent were data centers and several others were retail or wholesale projects.

Jack noted reasons for failing to attract certain businesses as being a lack of available buildings and sites that were not sufficiently developed.

"They want an existing building or land that is shovel ready," he said.

According to his statistics, only 20 percent of companies that requested a certain acreage were interested in anything less than five acres.

The largest tract in the Lansing Business Center, east of Kansas Highway 7 on Gilman Road, is not even three acres, Jack said.

The only question for Jack came from Lansing Mayor Kenneth Bernard, who asked whether the congressional delegation had been approached about the possibility of making a quicker route to Interstate 435 via McIntyre Road and Kansas Highway 5.

"We're going to start pushing that," Bernard said.

In other business Thursday, the council:

¢Voted, 6-2, with Janette Holdeman and Dee Hininger opposed, to allow Kristina Pilloni at 1536 Southern Hills Terrace to foster more than four cats under a state permit, despite a city ordinance stating otherwise.

Pilloni said she currently cares for 18 cats and two dogs and is unaware of any complaints from her neighbors.

¢Approved, 8-0, the purchase of a 2008 Ford Ranger Supercab for the city's community development department from Lansing-based Danny Zeck Ford at a cost of $19,610.

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