By BRIAN SMITH
HUDSON OAKS — Negotiations between the Weatherford Fire Department and Emergency Services District No. 3 continue as the two parties plan a merger.
Under the proposal, ESD No. 3 would become part of the Weatherford Fire Department, potentially as soon as the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. Discussion of consolidation with the ESD came from each having a station approximately one mile apart near Lake Weatherford. Moving into the ESD No. 3 station, which is in the proposal, would also keep Weatherford from having to purchase another fire engine at a cost of about $500,000, Rust said. Rust said the two stations answered 882 calls combined in 2012, many of them mutual aid. Much of the area the two stations serve can be reached in four to eight minutes.
Under the proposal, Weatherford’s Station 2 would close, and its employees would move into the ESD station.
“We’re looking at Weatherford providing the employees while the ESD would handle the facility, the utilities and vehicle costs,” Weatherford Fire Chief Paul Rust said during a May council meeting.
No date was set to bring back a final plan or contract, but Rust said after the May meeting he hoped to have something in writing that would begin at the start of the next fiscal year Oct. 1.
At Tuesday morning’s ESD No. 3 regular meeting, Chief Pat English gave an update as to what was happening and received some feedback from commissioners.
English said once the contract is approved, the six paid firefighters of ESD No. 3 would begin their service with Weatherford FD as new firefighters but would maintain their seniority within the department for such items as vacations, English said. The ESD No. 3 firefighters would be protected from any future layoffs, of which none have been scheduled or even discussed. In the event of layoffs, things such as performancebased evaluations, training and experience and their contributions to ESD No. 3 would be considered, English said.
“Having that agreement in there would put our guys on more of an even footing and was something we insisted on,” English said.
ESD No. 3 Commissioner Steve Malley said that Weatherford Fire Chief Paul Rust is “all about performance” and the ESD No. 3 firefighters would be protected under the provisions of the contract. English said he has met with members of the Weatherford Fire Association, who assured him their members would be welcomed and treated well.
Commissioners added some points to the contract, which Rust is expected to present to the Weatherford city council during a work session in the coming weeks for their thoughts on the subject. Commissioners wanted to add a provision where disputes would be handled by a three person arbitation committee, with each department selecting one member from their ranks and those two selecting a third.
In other activity, commissioners accepted a petition expanding ESD No. 3 boundaries to include areas of Annetta North, including the Quail Ridge and the Buck Dobbs neighborhoods, not previously annexed into ESD 3.
A hearing on the petition is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 13, immediately before the board’s next regularly scheduled meeting.