Weatherford Democrat

May 6, 2013

Letter to the Editor: Aledo Volunteer Fire Department annexation

Weatherford Democrat

— By Mayor Bruce Pinckard; Mayor Rob Watson; Mayor Gerhard Kleinschmidt

ANNETTA — ESDs formed under current laws have a crippling effect on a city’s ability to control their own emergency services plans. This election could forever exclude citizen participation at the local level through their own city councils being forced instead to live under the guidelines set by political appointees. The extremely large geographical area further dilutes a community’s ability to engage in the process with any appreciable level of acceptance. Five appointed board members spread out over a more than 300-square-mile area with the headquarters almost an hour drive away from where the bulk of the tax revenue will be generated is unacceptable.

What is an ESD (Emergency Service District)? An ESD is a political subdivision of the State of Texas. ESD’s may impose a sales and use tax and/or property tax to support or provide local emergency services. ESDs are created as a means to provide public funding for urban, suburban and rural emergency service organizations.

What ESD now serves our community? Presently only ESD No. 3, headquartered in Hudson Oaks, serves part of Annetta, most of Annetta North, Hudson Oaks and surrounding areas.

(The election in May concerns ESD No. 1, headquartered in Springtown, which serves Springtown, Peaster, LaJunta, Silver Creek and surrounding areas, and its annexation of the Aledo and three Annetta municipal territories and surrounding areas.)

What determines if an ESD can expand its territory? After a petition for annexation is submitted to an ESD and the ESD accepts it, the voters in the expansion area may vote to approve the annexation and the existing ESD voters may vote to accept the expansion area. (Recently, almost one hundred citizens of the Aledo area submitted a petition to annex a large area into ESD No. 1, unbeknownst to Annetta, Annetta North, Annetta South, Fort Worth, Weatherford and Willow Park.)

What are the concerns with the ESD  No. 1 issue? The Aledo VFD needs the financial backing of an ESD. ESD No. 1 from Springtown, would like to annex not only Aledo, but all of the three Annetta municipal territories and surrounding areas.

Why are our citizens alarmed? (a) The process of an ESD annexation, with no regard to a city’s emergency service plan, takes away a city’s right of local control. (b) Our ESD tax dollars can be diluted or spread over more than 300 square miles, if the annexation is approved. (c) The voters do not elect any of the five ESD commissioners and there is no requirement for a local ESD commissioner to be designated to represent your municipal territory.

What is the background to the ESD No. 1 annexation? For the past several years, the six area mayors have worked together to solve municipal issues. At the forefront was the goal of maintaining our community character while providing for the needs of our residents. When the three Annettas were informed about a petition to annex the Aledo Fire Department area into the ESD #1, we were dismayed by the lack of any prior information or involvement of our city representatives. However, the ESD chief said each city would be given a 60-day notice letter to elect out of the annexation. After several follow-up calls about the 60-day election letter, it was repeatedly promised. On January 17th, ESD No. 1 Chief Vinson was asked face-to-face about the status of the 60-day election letter, and he admitted, “I misspoke.” The cities would not have the option to elect out of the annexation.

The three Annettas emergency service discussions, meetings and plans had been progressing for several years prior to the ESD No. 1 annexation issue.

What has been our emergency service planning process? During the past several years, the three Annetta mayors have consulted among themselves and/or with area fire personnel, the Texas State Fire Marshal office and ISO, the International Organization for Standardization. The ISO International Standards rate and issue a Public Protection Classification (PPC) to fire departments to ensure services are safe and reliable with a rating of 1 being the best and 10 being the lowest. For example, Houston has the highest PPC rating of 1 and the City of Aledo has a PPC of 7. The portion of Annetta North served by the Hudson Oaks Fire Department has a PPC of 4. Most of the Annettas’ areas have been underserved with emergency services and unfortunately have the lowest PPC of 10. The mayors of the three Annettas have been working to provide improved emergency services in the three Annettas. Following are some of the mayors’ requirements and points of discussion:

•Require a minimum PPC (Public Protection Classification) rating of 4 within each of the three Annetta city limits.

If a city currently has a PPC rating less than 4, then take action to increase the PPC to a rating of 4 because some areas of the Annettas have the lowest PPC rating of 10.

•Provide additional services (fire investigation, juvenile fire-setter counseling, hydrant flow, code interpretations, etc.) pursuant to a separate interlocal agreement.

•Require by agreement to support equal representation with a commissioner from Annetta, Annetta North, Annetta South, Aledo, and Hudson Oaks. If any city chooses not to participate or a qualified commissioner is not available to serve, then a person from anywhere in the district could be appointed.

•Build the Annettas’ fire station and firefighter training facility in our community (Note: the site selection process began prior to ESD No. 1 accepting a petition and proceeding to annex our municipal territory).

•Staff the fire station at all times with two full-time employed firemen, 24 hours per day, seven days per week, with 24-hour volunteer firemen support; as opposed to ESD No. 1’s plan to staff the fire station with two full-time employed firemen for only eight hours during weekdays (not Saturday or Sunday) with 24-hour volunteer firemen support. (Note: a fire department receives up to 15 percent of its numerical grade for staffing by ISO - with paid 24-hour staff receiving the upper limit of credit and volunteers, not normally in the station, receiving reduced credit to reflect the delay due to decision, communication and assembly – the ISO representative states nine volunteers equals three paid employees).

•Lower home insurance cost by reducing the public protection classification issued by ISO through better fire protection and fire suppression.

The ESD No. 1 refuses to enter into a written contract with the three Annettas and says we must “trust them.” However, the Texas Municipal League said Fort Worth entered into an agreement with ESD No. 1, which we presume will benefit Fort Worth and its citizens, but the terms are not known as of the date of this report.

Are area mayors AGAINST adding the Aledo Fire Department service area to ESD No. 1? Yes, the following Mayors are against adding the Aledo Fire Department service area to ESD No. 1: Bruce Pinckard of Annetta, Rob Watson of Annetta North, Gerhard Kleinschmidt of Annetta South, Dennis Hooks of Weatherford, and Richard Neverdousky of Willow Park.

Do you trust ESD No. 1 or your elected city council to control your emergency services and tax dollars? If your vote allows the ESD No. 1 to annex the area, your city council will lose local control to improve emergency services.

Please vote AGAINST Proposition No. 1 and No. 2 to stop the inclusion of your land into ESD No. 1.