Lynne Hermansen
Special to The Gardner News
Former Johnson County Fire District 2 Fire Chief Jim Francis was introduced at the Fire District April 12 board meeting as the new county fire service administrator.
Francis said his new role was part of the county’s new restructuring of departments.
“I am happy to be here and look forward to working with you in the future,” he said.
Francis was a fire chief for 25 years and retired from District 2 after 35 years, but said there was still work to be done for District 2.
Francis said his new county role is to facilitate collaboration and enhance conversations.
On October 21, the Johnson County Board of Commissioners authorized two separate agreements splitting and transferring Fire District 2 services to the City of Overland Park and Johnson County Fire District 1.
The transition began on November 28.
Under one agreement Fire District 1 took over fire and rescue services to the District 2 area west of Lackman Road, including a portion of Spring Hill and northern Miami County. The Overland Park Fire Department took over day to day operations in the area east of Lackman Road.
The county’s anticipated growth of Overland Park and loss of revenue by the early termination of Fire District 2’s contract with the city prompted the change.
Fire District 1 employed 22 existing employees from Fire District 2 as part of the transition.
Under these new agreements, Overland Park will soon provide some services currently provided by Fire District 2.
Overland Park annexed a large portion of land in 2008 and Fire District 2 entered into a 15-year agreement with the city to serve the new area until the agreement expires at the end of 2022.
County documents show the agreement’s expiration could result in Fire District 2 losing up to $1,350,000 in annual revenue.
The City of Overland Park built a new fire station at 12301 W. 175th Street that will soon serve a portion of the city territory that Fire District 2 is now serving. The existing Fire District 2’s first station at 19065 Lackman Rd. will close.
District 1 board members said they had questions about trying to understand Francis’s new county role.
Randy Gregorcyk, board member, said he had questions about performing a supervisor role versus the essential duties.
Francis said he isn’t considered a supervisor because he doesn’t have subordinates and his role is just to facilitate and support.
Gregorcyk said he had concerns when reading the job description that Francis had the ability to approve expenses, budgets and purchases and how that fit in with the roles of the board members.
Francis said the county manager wrote the job description with a lot of generically written descriptions.
“It will evolve over time,” he said.
Gregocykk said it doesn’t read the same as Francis described.
Keith Johnson, board member, said he too had concerns and agreed the job description was generally written.
“It makes me wonder—shoot, what are we here for,” he said.
Connie Schmidt, board member, said it would be helpful to see where the position falls.
Paul Davis, emergency medical services director for the county, said he wouldn’t claim authorship, and it was a county document showing where the role fits into the county government.
“There is some crossover with the District 2 contract and continued responsibility,” he said. “It does have expense authority in EMS as it is consolidated for the county.”
Davis said their roles were to work with the fire department.
“We already have a good relationship, and it is our intent and goal,” he said. “The county is always looking at efficiencies to taxpayers. Other departments have merged as practice of the county.”
Dennis Meyers, chief, said he believed there was no intent for Francis and Davis to start overlooking their bills and purchases.
Davis said they were ready to help with anything.
Ron Conus, board member, said he had concerns about the job description stating Francis would oversee developmental policies, procedures and operational plans.
“It seems to be board responsibility—I realize I didn’t write it,” he said.
Davis said the county is looking down the road when they write the job description.
Gregorcyk said was it an open application position or appointed.
Davis said the role was appointed by the county.
“It is the vaguest thing I’ve seen,” Gregorcyk said.
In other business:
Meyers presented 2022 Year in Review on PowerPoint with statistics for the year he planned on presenting to cities.
Meyers said their mission remains the same to protect life and property and enhance well-being.
The overview included five board members, former Chief Rob Kirk’s retirement, the transition with Fire District 2 and more.
Meyers said the biggest change had been the addition of EMS Advanced Life Support services and adding water rescue.
The district employs 72 full time employees with 3,4554 calls.
Meyers said a proud moment for him was that every 1027 business in all the cities they serve had been inspected.
“We are the 4th/5th busiest fire district in Johnson County,” he said.
Gregorcyk said he encouraged each board member to attend the presentation for their respective individual represented cities to show support.
The first presentation will be for Edgerton April 19.
-board members were sworn in jointly for their oath of office
-board members were asked to sign the County Code of Ethics for Government Officials
-Property and Casual Insurance for a $89,000 premium for the May 9 2022 to May 9 2023 year was approved.
-Workmen’s Compensation Insurance plan for a $137,117 premium was approved.
-three paramedics to attend paramedic school paid by District 1 was approved.
-board members approved changing upcoming board meeting times to 7 p.m. for the summer months from the 6:30 p.m. time.
-board members agreed to hold a  April 26 work session for employee pay schedules.