By JUDY SHERIDAN
Three days after voters approved the annexation of Aledo’s fire district by Emergency Services District No. 1 on May 11, the board of ESD No. 3 voted to give some residents of Aledo’s fire district a different choice – coverage by ESD No. 3 instead.
“The Annettas came to us May 14, at our regular meeting,” ESD No. 3 Board President Stephen Malley said. “They said, ‘We believe we can opt out [of ESD No. 1]; here’s our petition.’ We did accept the petition. It was a unanimous vote.”
The petitioned area includes land within the city limits of Annetta, Annetta North and Annetta South as well as within the extraterritorial jurisdiction of Annetta, Annetta North, Annetta South, Weatherford and Willow Park.
The petition has 68 signatures, including the names of Annetta Mayor Bruce Pinckard, Annetta North Mayor Rob Watson and Annetta South Mayor Gerhard Kleinschmidt, ESD No. 3 has also set a public hearing for June 18 at Annetta City Hall.
Issues involving the removal of the newly petitioned area from ESD No. 1 will be addressed after May 11 election results are resolved, Malley said, on the advice of their ESD attorney.
The ESD No. 1 Board of Commissioners meets at 8 a.m. Monday to canvass the election and vote to accept the annexation results, according to ESD No. 1 staff.
Malley said ESD No. 3 is simply responding to the petitioners, not vying for the tax revenue the area would contribute.
“They don’t bring in much,” he said, “but there aren’t many calls either. Does this make sense from the standpoint of providing services? Yes. Will it make us rich? No. It would help us build a fire station in the area faster.”
Malley said ESD No. 3 and city officials from Annetta North have planned to build a station in the FM 5/Airport Road/Old Annetta Road area for years. He said an ESD No. 3 reorganization might free up the financial resources to build a substation there.
“I’m talking about a metal building with a few bays, not a Taj Mahal,” he said. “I’m not going to jump out and make a lot of promises.”
Mayor Kleinschmidt said he does not agree that voters have decided that they want to become a part of ESD No. 1, even though voters in the Aledo Fire District approved the proposition.
The annexation proposition passed by 42 votes, but Aledo fire district voters rejected an option to assume the ESD’s debt.
“There has been no debate about ESD No. 3,” he said. “It’s going to take another election. We’re talking to our lawyers and other people involved.”
Mayor Watson said the City of Annetta North has taken no action regarding the petition for inclusion in ESD No. 3.
The petitions have been circulating in the Annettas since May 6 — before the May 11 election — he said, because petitioners wanted to be ready to move forward with ESD No. 3 if the election to join ESD No. 1 failed.
“I’m not opposed to it if there’s a way to join ESD No. 3,” he said. “We would rather have the 24-hour paid coverage.”
Mayor Pinckard echoed Watson, saying the petition was generated because residents wanted to be first in line with ESD No. 3 if the proposition to join ESD No. 1 failed.
Having it go forward now, in the face of a successful election, is a matter of leaving no stone unturned.
“Since we don’t know what will happen, we don’t want to leave any options out,” he said. “My thought is if I don’t do anything, I don’t want to find out later that I could have.”
ESD Board President Rena Peden said she would turn over any questions about the issue to ESD No. 1’s attorney.
“There’s a potential for cities to buy out of an ESD if they plan to provide their own services,” she said. “I don’t think this would change the way the buyout is structured.”
It isn’t clear if or how the newly petitioned area can be released from ESD No. 1, or if the fact that voters in the annexed district declined to accept the ESD’s debt makes a difference.