Firefighters’ representative says many of city’s fire stations ‘not livable’

A representative of the Kansas City, Kansas, firefighters union on Monday night told a Unified Government committee that many of the city’s fire stations are not even livable.

Robert Wing, business manager for the International Association of Firefighters, Local 64, said he was concerned about the conditions of the fire stations as well as the staffing for the new Piper fire station.

The firefighters’ labor agreement stated that the firefighters were to be part of a joint labor-management process to analyze the Fire Department that includes input on station locations, new stations, renovations, expansion, closures, staffing, apparatus, response time and safety, Wing said.

Wing said the firefighters received notification from fire staff that City Hall wanted a recommendation on what the committee would recommend about moving an existing fire apparatus from the urban core, inside the city, to the new Piper fire station under construction.

He said he took exception to the request because it undermined the committee’s work.

“Our charge was to analyze, through data compiled over a number of years, that we have disseminated to all the commissioners at this point, we utilize to make this decision and recommendation to you,” he said.

“We took exception to that,” Wing said. “It undermined our work. It’s not the first time City Hall has interfered in this committee’s work.”

He said this committee was charged to bring its recommendation to the elected officials, not to the administration. The recommendatons are on what is needed to improve fire service in Kansas City, Kansas, he said.

There was a full committee discussion about staffing Station 12, Wing said. Without dissent, the committee recommended that Station 12 should be staffed with a newly created company, with no fire company moved from the east side of the city, he said. No data in their research supports any movement from the east side to the west side of the city, he added.

None of the commissioners has supported a reduction in service in their districts by moving personnel and equipment from an eastern station to a western fire station, according to Wing.

“They’re there for a reason, and were put there with the safety of residents and firefighters in mind,” he said.

Wing also emphasized that the condition of fire stations in Kansas City, Kansas, needs work.

Fifteen of the 18 fire stations do not meet the city’s codes, he said.

He mentioned mold found in an Argentine fire station, which is a health risk to firefighters as well as anyone who comes into the station.

He also mentioned animals living in an attic in a fire station at 51st and Gibbs Road.

“I don’t think it’s funny at all,” Wing said. “Those animals carry diseases and it’s a shame when it had to surface when they came crashing through the ceiling of the eating area in the middle of the night, and the firefighters had to corral them.”

He also said the fire station at 78th and Kansas is structurally unfit and is to the point where it could collapse.

Wing also said something as minor as the retaining wall at a fire station at 81st and Leavenworth Road should have been repaired many years ago and is an eyesore. If it was on private property, code enforcement would be out there citing them to get that wall repaired, he said.

He said there are many more problems in the fire stations.

“I have witnessed, the last week to 10 days, the interest in the ballpark out there – the funds that are coming forward that could be identified to take care of the issue out there,” he said.

He said he thinks the ballpark is an asset for the community that should be preserved. But as funds are identified quickly to make sure the baseball team and stadium are kept and improved, when at the same time 15 of 18 existing fire stations don’t meet code, he thinks it is “embarrassing at best.”

“This is due to an administration that has underfunded and under-resourced the fire department for a period of years. And I as a taxpayer and an individual and a union official think it’s time we collectively start taking these issues up and finding some resolve for them,” Wing said.

The joint labor-management committee was being bypassed by another recommendation that was sent to commissioners, according to Wing. A new firehouse built in a park on the south side is not a recommendation by the committee, he said, and the committee should be making the recommendation. The committee would make a recommendation that is good for the district as a whole, he said.

Commissioner Mike Kane asked about pending grievances, and Wing responded that he was still waiting for them to be resolved. They concerned funding and payments to firefighters, he said.

Also still pending are labor board charges regarding bad faith bargaining, that may be close to being resolved, he said. Wing said he will not bargain until these previous charges are resolved, which is the usual procedure in bargaining. He said the union has sent a response to the administrator’s office that has been there for several weeks, that has not yet been responded to. An arbitration session is scheduled with the administration on Tuesday, he said.

“Reasonable people doing reasonable things” would resolve the issues, he said.

UG officials who were attending the meeting did not make a statement on the specifics of Wing’s remarks at this meeting.

UG commissioners on the committee said they were looking forward to having another meeting in the future with Wing, administrators and Fire Department administration present.

Wing appeared at the UG’s Public Works and Safety Committee meeting on Monday night at City Hall.


A video of the meeting is online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41WPHeBsdDA.

Blue Devils blank Coffeyville; begin playoffs at Cloud Sunday

Freshman forward Elijah Bathily, who scored KCKCC’s first goal in a 2-0 blanking of Coffeyville Sunday, leveled a shot from inside the box. (KCKCC photo by Alan Hoskins)

by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC

A 2-0 winner over Coffeyville Sunday, Kansas City Kansas Community College’s men will take on a familiar rival in opening Region VI soccer playoff action.

The Blue Devils will open play at Cloud County Sunday at 2 p.m. The game will be played at the Concordia High School field and will be the third year in a row the two teams have collided in the playoffs. KCKCC used a 1-0 win in the second round of the 2017 regional on the way to a berth in the NJCAA DI national tournament but lost a 1-0 heartbreaker to Cloud in last year’s opening round.

The Blue Devils scored the only goal they would need just four minutes into Sunday’s 2-0 win over Coffeyville. Freshman Elijah Bathily took a pass from sophomore Leonard Bonelli across the middle for the goal. The Blue Devils then scored an insurance goal early in the second half, sophomore Marcus Kawah taking a crossing pass from freshman Javier Blanco for the goal.

The Blue Devil defense excelled, allowing Coffeyville only four shots as freshman goalkeeper Bosco Pery recorded the shutout with two saves. The Blue Devils, meanwhile got off 19 shots including 15 on goal, 13 of which were turned away.

With a lead, KCKCC coach Ruben Rodriguez was able to go to his second unit.

“This gave us a chance to rest our first team and avoid injuries in order to be at 100 percent for the playoffs,” Rodriguez said. “We played well; we just need to keep it up.”

The Blue Devils will take a two-game winning streak and a 7-5-2 overall record into the playoffs. KCKCC finished third in the Jayhawk with a 6-3-1 record. The league champion will be crowned Monday when Cowley (7-1-1) plays at Johnson County (6-1-2).

With an open net behind him, Coffeyville goalkeeper Jose Quifione’s desperation slide just beat KCKCC’s Lucas Santos (3) and Javier Blanco (30) to the ball. However, Blanco later set up Marcus Kawah for a clinching goal in a 2-0 win Sunday. (KCKCC photo by Alan Hoskins)

Mayor seeks quality economic development projects

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Opinion column

by Murrel Bland

Kansas City, Kansas, Mayor spoke about economic development opportunities for Kansas City, Kansas, at the monthly meeting of the Congressional Forum Friday, Oct. 18, at Children’s Mercy Park. The Kansas City, Kansas, Area Chamber of Commerce sponsors the forum

Mayor Alvey said the challenge for a city is to provide basic services, such as street repair and police and fire protection, at a reasonable cost. Beyond that, it is important to encourage those businesses who will help increase the tax base.

There are about 3,500 vacant homes in the Land Bank in Kansas City, Kansas. Mayor Alvey said that during the 1960s, the trend was to bulldoze these properties. Today the approach is different as those properties can be improved and provide housing for lower-income families. He said he hopes that financial institutions will come together to help fund such efforts.

The mayor held up a document which forecasts the Unified Government’s revenue and expenses for the next five years. He said it is important to have a long-term plan that provides reasonably accurate information.

Mayor Alvey spoke of the long-abandoned Rock Island Bridge over the Kansas River that is near the former Kemper Arena in the West Bottoms of Kansas City, Missouri, and could become a destination place for entertainment and retail development. The project has also drawn interest of Quinton Lucas, the recently elected mayor of Kansas City, Missouri.

Alvey also spoke of the $25 million investment along the Turner Diagonal that will provide warehouses and ancillary development. It is estimated it will produce about 1,100 new jobs.

Two other projects he mentioned were the downtown grocery that will be near Sixth Street and State Avenue and the American Royal campus that will be built in Village West.

The mayor also told of the new owners of the Kansas City T-Bones, Max-Fun Entertainment. The Unified Commission approved an agreement with Max-Fun last Thursday, Oct. 17. Matt Perry, the new president of the T-Bones, has pledged he will make improvements to the stadium that the Unified Government owns.

Mayor Alvey said the Unified Government will continue to seek the collection of back rent and utility payments that is owed by the previous owners of the T-Bones.

U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids spoke to the group, via a large television screen. She said that she was able to help convene a meeting of the Congressional Small Business Committee at Kansas City Kansas Community College. She said she continues to spend time with area businesses including YRC Freight, a trucking company.

Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is the executive director of Business West.