By CHRISTIN COYNE
Parker County is growing but area fire departments have been struggling to keep up with the demand for services with traditional funding from donations and the county.
That’s why members of the Cool-Garner Volunteer Fire Department are requesting annexation of their fire service area into taxing entity Emergency Services District No. 7 in November.
The department presented at the June 11 ESD No. 7 meeting a petition signed by more than 150 area residents requesting ESD No. 7 place the issue on the November ballot.
“Our department is very grateful for the funding of commissioners court is providing and has provided but it no longer meets our needs,” Cool-Garner VFD Chief Rodney Robertson said. “That’s the whole reason for the annexation.”
The 13-member department operates out of one fire station with a county-purchased water tanker, a fire engine and two brush trucks and serves about 57 square miles, including the City of Cool and the Garner community.
“We can’t do anything we want to do,” Robertson said. “We’re just maintaining.”
If voters approve the annexation, the City of Cool and unincorporated area north of Mineral Wells Highway in the Garner area would join ESD No. 7, which would be responsible for providing fire and emergency services to the area and could levy a property tax of up to 10 cents per $100 valuation under state law.
Due to an adjustment in the Parker County funding structure, their budget went from $26,000 to $42,000 this fiscal year.
With an annual average of about $2,500 in donations, the total annual budget still leaves the department maintaining the status quo as the call volume increases and unable to replace aging trucks or other expensive equipment, according to Robertson.
“The only answer for our service to grow was to go the ESD route,” Robertson said.
The department is one of just two fire departments in unincorporated Parker County that aren’t currently part of an emergency services district.