After months and even years of concerned comments from constituents, the Bourbon County Commission decided Tuesday to demand an audit from Rural Fire District 2, or the Garland Fire Department.
Township trustees Dwayne Allen and Don Banwart presented their request to the commission, saying the fire department in the past year had refused to give the township board details concerning finances and fire district administration, even going so far as to get a restraining order against the township.
“This is unnecessary; it’s a waste of taxpayers’ money,” Banwart said of the injunction that has cost both parties large sums of money due to lawyers’ fees. “Our hands are basically tied.”
County Commissioner Jeff Fischer, who is familiar with the fire district and has attended meetings on the subject, said the lack of transparency with the fire department began as far back as four years ago, when some of the staff such as the chief were released and money seemed to disappear without the knowledge of the township board, which is supposed to have authority over the fire board.
Banwart said an audit would help clarify some of what is occurring in the fire district and give them guidance moving forward, saying their chief concern is the safety of the Scott and Drywood township residents in that district.
A report concerning the four Bourbon County fire districts and their effectiveness was presented to the commission January 17, and showed that in 2016, the Garland department only responded to about 77 percent of the calls. Banwart said he believes the department is down to only three firefighters.
In March 2016, District 13 Kansas Senator Jacob LaTurner successfully created a bill that was passed by the senate, giving county commissions the authority to demand an audit from fire districts at the request of the townships.
Under that new ordinance, the Bourbon County Commission unanimously voted to act by pursuing that audit. The audit, which in this case may reach as far back as five years, will be paid for by the townships.
Initially, county treasurer and CPA Rhonda Dunn had said she could do the audit, but Tuesday advised they use a third party. The commission said they would move forward immediately, finding what the cost of such an audit would be as they decide how far back to go in the district’s finances.