Eudora News and Information – www.eudorareporter.com
Story by George Diepenbrock, courtesy The Lawrence Journal-World
As Eudora Police Chief Grady Walker sits in his department’s conference room next to Fire Chief Chris Moore and City Administrator John Harrenstein, he’s talking about how cramped both agencies are in the current 8,000-square-foot building.
Then, suddenly, he points to an out-of-whack door frame in the corner. “A prime example,” Walker said.
Some time earlier, a ladder on a fire truck in the garage that’s just on the other side of the wall smacked and damaged the frame.
“The truck did that,” Harrenstein said, because there’s so little space to park the fire trucks as firefighters back them into the bay in the station.
The story illustrates one finding of a 2010 audit of Eudora’s fire department, he said, that revealed the space in the city’s public safety building is too small to safely house heavy fire trucks. The bumpers rest only inches from the wall in the building, 840 Main St.
But that and other issues with the building will be changing soon. Eudora’s City Council last week approved bonds to fund a $2.84 million public safety building two blocks to the south that will double space for both departments. Construction is expected to begin in September at 10th and Main streets, home to the old Eudora Middle School, which was razed last year. The city hopes the project will take eight months.
“By building a new facility, we’re going to attract more members. We’re going to retain more members,” Moore said, which is critical for the volunteer department. “We’re going to provide better quality training.”
The new building will also take care of the space issue for the fire trucks. It includes four drive-thru bays and more room for volunteer firefighters to stay the night comfortably and for training. It will also include an exhaust fume relief system to allow crews to start the trucks inside once they get ready for a call.
City leaders wanted to package improvements for Eudora police into the project as well, primarily because the department has its own problems with crowding on its half of the current building.
Walker said most of their rooms fill multiple purposes. There are lockers for the officers in a hallway, and many times when victims or members of the public come to make a report, they first meet with officers in the front lobby while other people come in to make payments with the municipal court clerk’s window a few feet away.
“There’s just no privacy,” he said. “We’re crowded, and it’s going to be able to free up a little more space.”
The departments do like being able to remain in the same building together, and municipal court will also be held in the new building instead of at city hall, meaning officers won’t have to leave the building to appear in court.
Harrenstein said the city considered both a smaller version and a more expensive new building at $4 million before arriving at the current project. He also said city leaders believe it’s important that the new building will remain downtown, both to emphasize a commitment to revitalizing downtown and to not affect response times to fire, medical and police calls.
The council approved the new project to pay off the bonds with a 1.5 mill property tax increase, which according to the city would cost the owner of a $150,000 to $200,000 home an extra $30 to $40 per year more in taxes.
“Especially in these times we don’t like to raise taxes,” Harrenstein said. “But for the services that they are providing, the city council and the staff felt that we needed to give them a space to do their jobs well. I think it sort of recognizes the commitment to public safety in the community.”
Eudorareporter.com Editor’s Note (courtesy the City of Eudora):
In an effort to provide citizens with information regarding the new public safety building, the police chief and fire chief are conducting tours of the existing building to explain why a new building is being constructed. These tours will take place on July 30th, August 6th, 9th, and 16th. Tour time will be from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. The goal of the tours and open house is to answer questions the public has about the proposed project and allow citizens to examine the current deficiencies of the existing station.