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September 27th, 2020

seward logoROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times


Officials with Seward County were scheduled to hear from consultants today regarding whether or not money from the recent $6.4 million funding from the State of Kansas through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act could be used to help with a possible relocation of the county’s fire station in Liberal.

Monday, Administrator April Warden and Fire Chief Andrew Barkley gave a brief update on the project following last Monday’s meeting.

“Around 3 p.m. today, Jeff Stevens with iParametrics did let us know the recovery department finally returned their questions about the fire department,” Warden said at Monday’s meeting. “However, they’re sending a specific request and review of the plans submitted and told iParametrics they would try to get us an answer by Wednesday as to whether or not Chief Barkley’s proposal would be covered the CARES Act CRF funding. Unfortunately for tonight, I don’t have a lot of updated information before you, more than we had last week, but still not the final answer.”

Barkley said if the project does not qualify for money from the Coronavirus Relief Fund, funds are available in the Seward County Fire Department’s 2021 budget to reimburse the county for the cost of relocating the department to a facility on 18th Street currently used for a student firefighter program at Seward County Community College.

“We’re hoping to hear something by Wednesday,” he said. “We came before you tonight because we were concerned the longer we drag on and whether it’s going to be to be a factor in pouring cement and foundations.”

Barkley expressed concerns about the county’s current fire station, a joint facility shared with the Liberal Fire Department on West 15th Street. Those concerns surrounded having multiple members of both departments in the same building and the possibility this would create for exposure to COVID-19.

“Our career staff and paid call staff are sharing restroom facilities, apparatus parking areas and administrative areas with other agency fire personnel, which leads to the possibility of exposure and cross exposure throughout both the city and county fire departments,” he said in a July 23 memo to Warden.

In an Aug. 7 letter to Warden, Barkley said too many fire departments across the country have been affected by quarantines due to one simple exposure, causing shortages in personnel and fire station closures.

“We do not have close enough neighboring fire departments to provide efficient and effective fire protection to our area in the event of a closure,” he said.

Commissioners are expected to file a final Direct Aid Spending Plan for the CARES Act money this week, and Barkley said in his latest letter, due to time constraints regarding the CRF funding, he is asking the commission to allow the fire department to go out for bid for an addition of two bays at the 18th Street location.

“The departments can operate separately in the current times we face, as we are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

No action was taken on the item as county officials were awaiting feedback from iParametrics on whether the project would qualify for CRF money.

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