By JUDY SHERIDAN
The proposed contract between Emergency Services District No. 3 and the City of Weatherford has no bearing on an annexation petition ESD No. 3 has accepted from residents in the Annetta area, according to ESD No. 3 Fire Chief Pat English.
“It doesn’t affect it at all,” he said. “They are two completely compartmentalized events. One is not dependent on the other.”
Under the proposal to combine forces, introduced at the Weatherford City Council meeting May 28, the city would provide personnel and the ESD would handle the facility, utilities, vehicle and some payroll costs.
“If the [annexation] happens, the district will be expanded, and we’d have to revisit some of the specifics of the contract,” English said.
Three days after voters on May 11 approved the annexation by ESD No. 1 of Aledo VFD’s fire district — which includes some of Annetta North, most of Annetta and all of Annetta South — residents in and around the cities petitioned for inclusion in ESD No. 3 instead.
ESD No. 3 Board President Stephen Malley said some petitioners told him they believed they could opt out of ESD No. 1.
The ESD No. 3 board responded by voting to accept the 68-signature petition — which includes the names of Annetta Mayor Bruce Pinckard, Annetta North Mayor Rob Watson and Annetta South Mayor Gerhard Kleinschmidt — and set a June 18 public hearing at Annetta City Hall.
“The vote had not been certified when we accepted the petition,” English said. “By statute, we must go through with the public hearing. Then the board will determine if they want to pursue it.”
The chief called the issue of whether or not petitioners could remove themselves from ESD No. 1 “a good question.”
“We have no indication from our attorney on which way it will go,” he said.
ESD No. 1 Board President Rena Peden, who confirmed that the ESD No. 1 board has certified the May 11 election results, said she doesn’t see how the annexation can go forward.
“They have asked for annexation of part of ESD No. 1 into ESD No. 3,” she said. “I don’t know how that would be accomplished. I don’t see how that’s allowed for in the law.
“If they approve it, we’ll have to see how that goes.”
Peden said an area can be removed from an ESD when a city with a means of providing its own fire protection decides to annex its extraterritorial jurisdiction.
“Then they can buy out the ESD,” she said. “That’s the only way that I’m aware of.”
She doesn’t think the provision would apply to a scenario where the City of Annetta chose to annex the Deer Creek area, which shares the same water system.
“We’re not aware that qualifies,” she said, “because Annetta and its ETJ are both in ESD No. 1.”
Peden said it appears that the City of Weatherford and ESD No. 3 were working on plans to consolidate before the controversial May 11 annexation election and should have let voters know about those plans.
“One of the things the opposition used was keeping the money local,” she said. “I wonder how [residents] would have felt if they knew ESD No. 3 was making deals with Weatherford?”
Peden said the ESD No. 1 board is moving ahead with plans to serve the newly annexed Aledo VFD fire district.
The board has approved a new fire truck for Aledo, she said, and will meet again soon to consider financing options.
The board has also authorized hiring three additional paid firemen for ESD No. 1, she said.
“We’re compensating a volunteer to provide an additional person for Aledo now,” she said. “When the new hire comes on, we will have two paid firemen at the Aledo station [on weekdays] instead of volunteers.”
During the next month, the ESD will assemble a committee to decide where additional fire stations might be needed, she said. She said the committee will include residents of the newly annexed area.
As far as representation on the board goes, Peden understands that Parker County commissioners will look at appointing a new member to fill the current vacancy June 10.
“I believe members of the Aledo firefighting community will suggest a candidate,” she said.