By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — The building located at 115 S. Maple has a long and storied history, having served various times as the Kay County Conservation District and an attorney’s office. Most recently, it was used by the Kaw Nation Domestic Violence office, which is now located on West Seventh Street. The city of Newkirk is now in possession of the property, thanks to a generous donation to the city by the ET Al Enterprises, and they are considering the possibility of razing it and using the space for a new facility housing both the Newkirk Fire Department (NFD) and Police Department (NPD).
Members of ET Al who made the donation are Dorothy Midgley, Jack De McCarty, Thomas Rigdon, Kaye McCarty, Steve Houser, Mary Weigel and Ike Glass.
The building, which rests on four lots, is unusable due to the May 2019 tornado.
“The building has recently been donated to the city of Newkirk, but the building needs to be torn down,” said City Manager Jane Thomas. “The tornado took the roof off of it.”
The city has a proposal for the lot, which if passed, will help streamline emergency services in Newkirk and northeast Kay County for the NFD and EMS and NPD, by housing all departments in one public safety center facility.
Thomas brought the subject up at the Jan. 13 city commission meeting, and it will be discussed further during the Jan. 27 meeting.
One of the reasons cited for the proposal is that NFD is running out of room, as the station is at full capacity for vehicles, which includes fire engines as well as ambulances. That has forced them to leave their tanker truck outside, and during winter months, it must be drained to prevent freeze damage, decreasing their ability to fight rural fires. The tanker truck helps refill fire trucks on rural fires.
“It’s our water source out in rural areas, and in the wintertime, we don’t have that,” said Fire Chief Adam Longcrier. “We have to rely on other fire departments to help us.”
They have also run out of space for storing ambulances, as the station was built before they operated EMS services. The NFD recently received a grant for a new ambulance, and where it will be housed is unknown at the moment.
“Where the ambulances sit, that was for the fire engines at the time. The ambulances are bigger than what the fire engines were in the 1950s,” he said. “We have another ambulance coming to increase EMS services, and one of the ambulances will be parked outside until we find a place to house it.”
The building itself is old and obsolete in many ways, with numerous repairs taking place annually to keep it functioning. It also is too small for daily operations.
“It’s to the point we can’t walk around our fire engines because of all the equipment,” he said. “We’re continuing to grow. When they build the station, they weren’t in the ambulance business.”
The NPD is also in need of an upgrade.
“The building is terrible, and having them with us in the building, I believe, reduces the time of response, because during the day, with the dispatcher, they could notify all personnel,” Longcrier said.
With both operating out of the same building, it will help the city to not only streamline operations, but also save money, as the city will only be paying utilities for one building, and a full-time dispatcher could be hired for all departments, Longcrier said.
A sales tax will be required to fund the measure, and in previous years, it failed, as some proposals present a bigger plan of housing not just the NFD and NPD in one facility, but all city officers. In the new proposal, both the NFD and NPD will be in the new building. It also will be several years before it makes it to the ballot, if it even happens.
“We are in no way asking for the same amount of money when the first election was held,” Longcrier said. “The building will be simple to meet the needs of the NPD and NFD, a building where we can park every vehicle we own. As for the city, community leaders are inviting the public to view facilities to see what they are, and see reasons for the proposal.
“We do make the fire station work, but it is definitely time to get down and really do it right by the citizens, do it right for their money,” Longcrier said. “Call me, come up here. Talk to our guys. If I’m not here, leave a message and I’ll call you back.”
For more information, contact the city office, at (580) 362-2117, NFD at (580) 362-3131 or NPD at (580) 362-2414.