Weatherford Democrat

August 10, 2011

ESD ballot battle

Two ESDs move toward Silver Creek annexation

Christin Coyne
Weatherford Democrat

WEATHERFORD — The Silver Creek fire district could have two options for annexation on the November ballot.

More than 120 petitions signed by landowners were turned in Thursday morning to Emergency Services District No. 3, the district covering the Hudson Oaks area, requesting the district annex the approximately 44-square-mile district in northeast Parker County.

An ESD No. 3 hearing on placing the annexation issue on the November ballot has been set at 8 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 7. After the hearing, the ESD No. 3 board of directors will vote whether or not to place the issue on the ballot.

If voters in both the proposed annexation area and voters in the ESD approve annexation, the Silver Creek district will join the taxing emergency services district.

ESD No. 1, the ESD covering the Springtown and La Junta areas, was also presented around 80 petitions from Silver Creek area landowners last month at an ESD meeting attended by Precinct 1 County Commissioner George Conley, though the Silver Creek Volunteer Fire Department has voiced opposition to being annexed by ESD No. 1.

Volunteer firefighters began collecting signatures to join ESD No. 3 following the ESD No. 1 meeting.

“This is what the department is wanting,” Brenda Brechbuhl said after helping present the petitions to ESD No. 3 Thursday.

Cutting down on response time with two paid firefighters is the main reason the department wants to join an ESD, according to Fire Chief Richard Adams and Brechbuhl.

Having two people stationed at the Silver Creek station will be huge, Brechbuhl said.

They have a history of working and training with ESD No. 3, Brechbuhl said.

“We would have liked to have a little more time,” Brechbuhl said. However, because a May election would end up costing the fire district more money because they’d have to have a separate ballot and the annexation process has started with ESD No. 1, they decided to collect signatures for the November ballot.

“We’re just wanting the community to have a better position,” Silver Creek VFD PIO Tammy Adams said. “We’re not fighting with anyone, we just want the best for our community.”

ESD No. 3 Fire Chief Pat English said part of Silver Creek’s district lies within Azle’s ETJ boundaries, meaning the area could be annexed by the city in the future.

English said he spoke with Azle’s fire chief and was told that to his knowledge, the city had no plans to annex the area and had no objections.

Both ESDs are planning to keep their tax rates at the maximum going into the new year.

Hearings regarding possible annexation of the Peaster fire district and the Silver Creek fire district will be held at the ESD No. 1 office at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 18, with the Peaster hearing held first.

More than 50 signatures were presented to the ESD No. 1 board of directors last month requesting annexation of the Peaster area.

The emergency services district has held meetings with property owners in the Silver Creek area that were attended by Silver Creek volunteer firefighters, Martin said.

They answered questions from the property owners and provided information on what ESD No. 1 could provide, Martin said.

“It’s going to be a good thing for both areas,” Martin said.

Response times for Silver Creek VFD are currently at 12 to 15 minutes while the ESD’s response time is eight to 12 minutes, Martin said. ESD No. 1 also has a crew of six, rather than the VFD’s typical four, which can make a difference, Martin said.

They’ve also requested information from both Peaster and Silver Creek VFDs as part of the process.

The required audit of Peaster’s books returned no surprises and showed the department kept the books as well as the ESD, Martin said. The audit of Silver Creek has not finished, Martin said.

If annexation is approved by voters in both the fire district and the ESD district, and the ESD begins spending money, the VFD’s property becomes the ESD’s, Martin said.

Taxes would begin being collected in 2012, but the majority of the money would come in, in 2013, according to Martin. They would try to put paid firefighters in 2012 in the new areas if annexed, but it may be until 2013, he said.