Residents pack city meeting as new fire protection change in Lansing sparks hot debate

LANSING, Kan. -- A hot button issue has a many residents and city workers fired up in Lansing.

”It’s all under one control now. It’s under the fire district, and the city needs to leave it alone," said Jim Murphy, a longtime Lansing resident and former firefighter.

”When you start talking about public safety and the safety of their families, people get interested," said Dean Moburg, the chairman of Leavenworth County Fire District One Board.

Lansing city officials said, for the last 14 years, the city has had a “productive partnership” with Leavenworth County Fire District One.

However, the city now plans to opt out of that partnership by the end of 2019 and create the new Lansing Fire Department.

”This really goes back to creating more accountability for the taxpayer, and it will also reduce the amount of bureaucracy,” Lansing City Administrator Tim Vandall said.

City officials said having a city-operated fire department is a good move and will be more beneficial to Lansing and the surrounding area.

”We really feel like having the fire department under the city’s umbrella creates more accountability similar to the way a police department is,” Vandall added.

Still, Fire Chief Rick Huhn and a number of citizens in Lansing don’t like the city’s plan.

”So, I would ask in the coming weeks that you think about the safety and protection of this community, our citizens and most importantly, your families,” Huhn said during Thursday’s standing-room-only city council meeting in Lansing.

A furious Kathleen Williams, of High Prairie Township, gave the council members an earful.

”How can we trust you that you’re not gonna go behind our backs again and, put it bluntly, screw us? I just don’t like it," Williams said.

Every seat was taken during the meeting, which more than 60 residents attended.

The city plans to replace the fire district with the new Lansing Fire Department at the end of 2019.