Study session adjourned after veering off topic
The ongoing conflicts between the Eudora Fire Department and the Township Fire Department led to an abrupt adjournment of a Sept. 1 Eudora City Council meeting to discuss recruiting more EFD firefighters.
The Sept. 1 meeting was requested by Eudora City Council President Maria Nelson. About 30 volunteers staff the EFD, which is headed by Chief Randy Ates. But during the last 12 months, the department has lost 16 members and has trouble covering calls during the day.
Mayor Scott Hopson invited Ates, Township Fire Department Chief Mike Baxter and Assistant Chief Duke Verhelst. About 20 EFD members also attended the Sept. 1 meeting.
In opening the meeting, Hopson noted the fractious history between the two departments, then Ates made a presentation that documented an increase in calls and need for more volunteers.
Ates said solutions to the staffing issues ranged from a recruitment program to budgeting for more full-time positions.
When he was finished speaking, the meeting went to recess. When it was back in session, Hopson asked Chief Baxter to address the council.
Baxter also spoke of the animosity between the two departments, but said his goal was to move past that.
Baxter said the township and the city fire departments continue to operate under a 2004 mutual aid agreement instead of one Baxter proposed in 2008.
The two departments met with Assistant County Administrator Pam Madl to discuss Baxter’s plan. Madl instructed the chiefs to settle any differences they had and work together.
Baxter said that hadn’t happened and the city would not train with the township when invited to do so.
However, the city firefighters said their schedules didn’t allow for the joint training sessions.
Baxter said the daytime staffing needs of the EFD could be improved if the two departments could better work together and councilman Bill Whitten, who is a fireman in Lenexa, urged the two sides throughout the meeting to repair their relationship.
As the meeting went on, two EFD members noted that there had been no discussion of the solutions Ates had proposed to fix the daytime staffing issues and they asked for the session to be adjourned.
Councilman Jeff Peterson said he was glad to hear from the firefighters, but said the issue of staffing wasn’t being addressed and made a motion for adjournment.
Mayor Hopson told him the meeting wouldn’t be adjourned despite the motion made by Peterson.
According to the Kansas League of Municipalities, a motion for adjournment of a meeting must be recognized and voted on.
Hopson opened up the meeting for comments from the audience and the meeting quickly devolved after that point.
Councilman Tim Reazin, who serves on the EFD, then made a motion to adjourn and Peterson seconded the motion.
Reazin, Peterson and Nelson, as well as several firefighters, then left the meeting.
The meeting continued with comments from audience members for about 10 more minutes before ending.
After the meeting, both Ates and Baxter said the only way the working relationship between the two sides could be repaired was by just the two of them working things out.
“Me and Chief Ates just need to sit down and have a deep discussion about everything that’s going on between the two departments,” Baxter said. “I’m open, and not to put blame on anyone party, but I’d like to sit down with Chief Ates and see if we can come to a resolution and just start fresh from today.”
At the time of this report, no such meeting had been scheduled.