Politics & Government

Sedgwick County wants more access to city-owned fire training facility

The Wichita Fire Department’s training facility at 31st Street South and Oliver.
The Wichita Fire Department’s training facility at 31st Street South and Oliver. File photo

Sedgwick County and the city of Wichita are fighting over when and how often the county’s firefighters can train at a city-owned facility.

City and county leaders will try to work things out at a joint meeting about fire and law enforcement training on Tuesday.

Sedgwick County Fire District 1 firefighters already train at the city’s regional training center at Oliver and 31st Street South. But the county says training space isn’t always available for their firefighters. The county’s communications department called it a “broken arrangement.”

“Access to the training facility is inconsistent and unpredictable based on the city’s priorities without regard for the county,” according to a county news release. “Training would be scheduled and cancelled or not given consideration based on the contentious relationship between the two entities. It is the county’s goal to repair that relationship.”

Access to the training facility is inconsistent and unpredictable based on the city’s priorities without regard for the county. Training would be scheduled and cancelled or not given consideration based on the contentious relationship between the two entities.

Sedgwick County news release

The release said the city and the county need to forge an agreement that would give both departments “equal consideration” and “equal time” to train at the fire center.

Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell says the city tries to accommodate the county, but that the center was funded by the city to take care of “our needs.” The city voted to spend $4 million to construct the facility in 2009. It was built in 2010.

“It would jeopardize our training if we say ‘you have 100 percent access all the time,’ ” Longwell said. “We’re not going to jeopardize our fire department’s ability to have first-class training because they (the county) didn’t feel the need to buy into that several years ago.”

We’re not going to jeopardize our fire department’s ability to have first-class training because they didn’t feel the need to buy into that several years ago.

Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell

County Commission Chairman Jim Howell says the county needs to address disparities in how Wichita and Fire District 1 firefighters train.

“The bulk of our training is happening in city parks and in parking lots, whereas the Wichita Fire Department has been training in a state-of-the-art facility,” Howell said. “The bulk of the training that’s provided by the regional training center is only for the Wichita Fire Department.”

The city’s department has about 412 uniformed firefighters and officers.

Fire District 1 employs about 145 firefighters, lieutenants, captains and administrators, according to county documents. Fire District 1 firefighters provide fire protection services for county residents outside Wichita and Derby.

Howell says the arguments for a joint law enforcement training center for Wichita police officers and Sedgwick County sheriff’s deputies should also apply to fire training.

Other commissioners say fire training discussions shouldn’t be dragged into the search for a new law enforcement training center.

“When you layer on other issues, it just complicates it more,” Commissioner Tim Norton said.

Daniel Salazar: 316-269-6791, @imdanielsalazar

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