Weatherford Democrat

October 24, 2012

Court approves fire contracts

Judy Sheridan
Weatherford Democrat

WEATHERFORD —  

Parker County Commissioners approved contracts with all 14 of the county’s fire fighting entities — eight volunteer fire departments and six emergency service districts — Monday, allocating a total of $820,000 for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.

According to a funding structure approved by county fire chiefs, each entity will receive at least $40,000 — to maintain basic infrastructure — with additional monies based on the population of the area that particular entity covers, as estimated by the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

Weatherford Fire Department’s allocation is $61,976. Other allocations include: $61,176 for ESD 1, $48,984 for Aledo, $45,216 for ESD 6, $44,936 for ESD 3, $43,456 for Willow Park, $42,936 for Central Community, $42,664 for ESD 9, $42,560 for ESD 7, $42,560 for Cool/Garner, $41,464 for Millsap, $41,336 for Poolville, and $40,744 for Adell/Whitt. Unincorporated areas near Reno will receive $15,000 in county coverage.

The funding is a little less than last year’s for the ESDs, Parker County Fire Marshal Shawn Scott said, and a little more for the VFDs.

In July, Central Community VFD Deputy Chief Greg Stone, representing the Parker County Fire Chiefs Advisory Board, asked the county for $85,000 more in funding to expand fire dispatch from 15 hours per day to round the clock — relieving the burden on the sheriff’s office — and to rebuild an emergency response team.

That request was not granted, Scott said, but the ESDs — which also collect tax dollars of their own — agreed to contribute some of their county funds — combining for a total of $180,000 — to push forward with the initiatives anyway.

“Everyone in the ESDs agreed to take less to [be able] to fund full-time dispatch,” Scott said, “which will begin Nov. 3. We will still be using part-time dispatchers to operate this budget year.” 

The ESDs will also kick in $25,000 to begin to rebuild an Emergency Response Team, Scott said, which will focus on providing the specialized, technical capability to effect rescues from collapsed buildings, confined spaces, swift water and other situations.

Those kind of events occur three or four times per year, he said, but the equipment needed is too expensive for any one fire department.

“We have to call for outside resources from Tarrant County,” Scott said. “This will shorten the response time.”

When Stone made his presentation to commissioners in July, he also asked that the county review fire service contracts earlier, so checks could be mailed at the beginning of the fiscal year in October.

The county’s extended budget process tends to slow down the contracts, Scott said, and last year, the way the funding is allocated was changed completely.

This year, no major changes were made on the county’s behalf, Scott said, but the contracts were not submitted to the county attorney until the middle of last month.

“The final presentation was made to the fire chiefs in September,” he said. “That’s what was submitted for the contracts.”

The VFDs and ESDs will receive their funding in four equal payments issued on a quarterly basis, Scott said. The payments will begin Jan. 31.

“They have to have their run records turned in,” Scott said. “According to the county attorney, the county can’t pay them until the job is done.

“The last round of payments was made in September. Hopefully, they budget well.”