By CHRISTIN COYNE
GREENWOOD – Residents of the Cool-Garner fire service area and ESD No. 7 will get a chance to weigh in on the proposed annexation by the taxing district at a public hearing scheduled for tonight.
The public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m., Aug. 22, at the Greenwood fire station, located at 1418 Greenwood Cut-off Road.
In June, the Cool-Garner Volunteer Fire Department submitted a petition signed by more than 150 area residents requesting annexation of their fire district by ESD No. 7.
If the ESD No. 7 board of commissioners places the issue on the ballot, voters in the Cool and Garner areas as well as ESD No. 7 will get a chance to vote on the issue.
The proposed annexation area runs between the boundaries of emergency services districts 1, 7, 8 and the city limits of Mineral Wells and Lake Mineral Wells State Park.
The volunteer department says it is seeking a reliable funding source to meet the growing need for services and expects the district, which has the ability to levy an ad valorem tax of up to 10 cents per $100 valuation, will provide that. They are one of just two Parker County volunteer fire departments that do not receive ESD funding in addition to county funding.
“Our department is very grateful for the funding the commissioners court is providing and has provided but it no longer meets our needs,” Cool-Garner VFD Chief Rodney Robertson told the Democrat in June. “That’s the whole reason for the annexation.”
With an annual average of about $2,500 in donations and less than $43,000 from the county, the total annual budget still leaves the department maintaining the status quo as their call volume increases and unable to replace aging trucks or other expensive equipment, according to Robertson.
With no ambulance station located in the western half of the county, the department began providing first-responder service a year ago to their own fire service area, as well as portions of the Adell-Whitt area, according to Robertson. The fire department is often about 8 minutes ahead of an ambulance in some areas, he said.
Since they began providing the medical service, the number of calls they are responding to has increased approximately 75 percent, according to Robertson. However, they’ve not received any increase in funding for providing those services.
Maintaining, much less replacing, their current equipment is also a concern for the department.
Though the department’s 1997 fire engine, purchased used about four years ago, is still in use, it’s developed issues with a worn-out pump, according to Robertson.
Fixing the pump alone would cost at least $15,000 and they can’t afford a newer-model used truck, which could run about 10 times that amount.
Cool-Garner has routinely trained with the fire departments of ESD No. 7, Greenwood and Millsap VFDs, Robertson said, adding that ESD No. 7 has the lowest tax rate in the county and has had paid daytime staff longer than any other western Parker County ESD.