— By CHRISTIN COYNE
Several neighborhoods south of Weatherford could soon join Emergency Services District No. 6, making the taxing district responsible for emergency services in the area.
Most of the affected area, estimated to be less than 5 square miles, is south of Weatherford’s ETJ and includes properties along Bethel Road, Tin Top Road, Cleburne Highway and Granbury Highway, as well as Harmony Road, Harmony Circle, Kinbrook Lane, Kelly Brook Lane, Mountain View Drive, Stoneridge Trail, and several other streets.
A public hearing on the proposed annexation was scheduled for Wednesday night.
It’s not clear why the area was not included in earlier boundaries drawn when the district was created, though the district currently responds to most of the calls in the area.
The district currently has a tax rate of 9.74 cents per $100 valuation, just under the maximum 10 cents per $100 valuation allowed under state law.
The owner of a $100,000 house would pay less than $100 in taxes each year to the district under the current tax rate.
The district is estimating the proposed annexation would bring in less than $50,000 in revenue per year.
“If we were doing this just for income, it wouldn’t be worth it,” ESD No. 6 Chief George Teague said. “We just think we’re responding out there anyway most of the time so let them be a part of the district and pay us a little bit of money.”
The district has made significant strides in recent years to improve fire and emergency services coverage in the area, according to ESD No. 6 officials.
Since the beginning of the fiscal year, the district has had two paid firefighters at the station between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., a time when volunteer firefighters working day jobs may have trouble responding.
At least one of those firefighters is an EMT or paramedic, allowing the district to respond to medical calls, as well, according to the district.
Nine volunteers were providing service to the district in 2009, two years after the ESD was created, according to Teague, who said the district now has about two dozen active volunteers, plus nine part-time firefighters, three part-time paid battalion chiefs and an administrative assistant.
The district has implemented a stipend program to reimburse expenses for volunteers who put in a certain number of hours with the district to encourage volunteers to be on standby, which reduces response time to calls.
Volunteers are at the station about 85 percent of the time on the weekends, according to Teague.
Firefighters also have more training than they previously did, according to Battalion Chief Wade West.
Ninety percent of the proposed annexation area is within 5 miles travel distance of the district fire station, which would give residents the benefit of the district’s current ISO rating of an 8b and a little bit of a break with their insurance, Teague said.
Most people in the area are currently a 10 on a scale of one to 10 or unprotected, according to Teague.
“The other advantage right now is that all that area doesn’t have any fire hydrants and Weatherford doesn’t have a tanker,” Teague said. “We have three ... available, which is 9,000 gallons that we can deliver.”