Proposed site of fire station, near where Olathe West athlete collapsed, draws criticism

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Overland Park officials want to improve emergency response times in the same area where a high school baseball player collapsed.

But their plan to do that has caused a bit of controversy among people who live in the neighborhood.

Brennan Connell was lucky there were doctors and a nurse in the stands during the game at Blue Valley Southwest on Monday. The school sits in a spot that takes emergency crews longer than they would like to respond.

The Olathe West pitcher essentially briefly died on that baseball field. Bystanders used an AED to bring him back to life and did CPR until first responders arrived.

“By the time the medics came and they were putting him on the cart, he was at least verbalizing and talking,” said Dr. Kortnee Sorbin, one of the people who saved Connell's life.

The Olathe Fire Department’s goal is to get to emergency calls in five minutes or less, but Blue Valley Southwest sits in somewhat of a dead zone.

"The other night it was about a seven-minute response time to get to the location and then another several minutes to get on the field and actually make contact with the patient.," Overland Park Fire Deputy Chief Brad Cusick said.

That's a long time to try and keep someone alive before advanced life support teams show up.

So Overland Park city officials have been looking for the right place to build a fire station in the Blue Valley Southwest area for years.

"The 179th and Quivera corridor has been a problem area for us. It is an area that we don't get to quickly. It is an area that really our neighbors don't get to quickly,” Cusick said. “We would love to get to this area within our five-minute time frame for emergency calls, and this is a great location for us, a great opportunity for us to partner with the district."

The school district is on board.

"We look at this partnership as a win-win,” district spokesperson Kristi McNerlin said. “We have thousands of students, parents, community members who are here daily, and to have them right on site is a great benefit to us."

Prior to Connell's emergency, the Overland Park city manager approached the school district about a plot of land with no plans for development on the edge of the Blue Valley Southwest campus. Emergency vehicles would access Quivera, north of 179th Street, next to the school parking lot entrance.

But not everyone thinks it is a good idea.

"Because we live here and we see the traffic on a daily basis," neighbor Scott Hamblin said.

He lives across the street from the proposed fire house site and has brought his concerns to the city.

Hamblin is concerned that traffic congestion is already bad during school start and end times. Adding emergency vehicles to the already congested traffic of inexperienced drivers, he said, is a recipe for disaster.

"We felt that got written off as just a concern that we are trying to push it out of the area when we are saying, 'Hey, just angle it the other way,'" Hamblin said.

Overland Park fire officials say the current concept has fire trucks exiting onto Quivera, but traffic engineers haven't determined if that's the best option yet. OPFD will work with the community to ensure safety is the first priority.

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