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KCK Mayor Mark Holland Talks Housing, Fire Department In State Of The County Address

Elle Moxley
KCUR 89.3
Kansas City, Kansas, Mayor and Wyandotte County Unified Government CEO Mark Holland delivers the 2016 State of the County address.

Market rate apartments are being built in Kansas City, Kansas, for the first time in 30 years.

In Tuesday’s State of the County address, Mayor Mark Holland said while he’s celebrating the more than $150 million investment in the Legends, he’s also thinking about how to improve Wyandotte County’s existing housing stock.

“I want our housing to be affordable not because it’s deplorable, but because we care about the people who live in it,” Holland said.

It’s a common problem: people who find jobs and break the cycle of poverty end up leaving Wyandotte County.

He’s hoping a Choice Neighborhood Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development can help the Unified Government plan for people to stay. Wyandotte County will find out in about three months if it gets the $2 million grant.

Also Tuesday, Holland said the Unified Government would move ahead with a plan to reorganize the Kansas City Kansas Fire Department.

He said currently there are more firefighters than police officers in Wyandotte County, and the distribution of firehouses is a throwback to the days when Kansas City, Kansas, didn’t extend past 38th Street.

“We have areas in our community where we have as low as one- and two-minute response times, which is just a luxury we cannot afford,” Holland said.

Instead, the plan is to standardize response times across the county to four minutes, the national average. Holland says once the firehouse are redistributed, KCK will be able to reduce staffing by about five percent.

One thing Holland didn’t talk much about Tuesday: the American Royal. There’s been talk of using state tax incentives to bring the rodeo to Wyandotte County, but it only got a one-word mention in his address.

“Maybe,” Holland said.

After, he told reporters while he’d be excited to have the American Royal, the Unified Government doesn’t compete for companies already in the metro area.

The American Royal moved its barbecue contest last year to the Truman Sports Complex after decades in the West Bottoms. Holland said he’s less interested in courting the American Royal of 20 years ago than building something that could act as a bioscience and animal health hub.

Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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