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August 1, 2013

Planned merger of ESD No. 3, Weatherford FD moves forward

By BRIAN SMITH

Negotiations continue on the Weatherford Fire Department absorbing Emergency Services District No. 3.

Weatherford Fire Chief Paul Rust gave an update last week, saying he still hopes to have a contract nailed down and plan in place by the start of the new fiscal year Oct. 1. Under the proposal, WFD would hire all six full-time ESD employees, close down its Station 2 on Lake Weatherford and move into the ESD No. 3 station on Oakridge Drive in Hudson Oaks.

If approved by both parties, the agreement, which would be for one year to start with an option to renew, would have benefits for both sides. Rust said the department would save about $12,000 a year in water and electricity bills. The department would also not have to repair Station 2’s leaky roof.

Under the plan, ESD officials would be responsible for new equipment for the station and also develop a 10-year replacement plan. Rust has said that Station 2, which also has the oldest equipment in the fleet, was never designed to be a fire station.

Talk of using the closed station for a proposed water treatment plant expansion has been discussed but no firm plans have been made.

The expansion, Rust said, will provide for a higher service level for both entities and also enhance firefighter safety. Some initial resentment of the proposal has been discussed and now everyone appears on board.

“To the district firefighters, it was undoubtedly a shock at first because they were caught off guard,” Rust said. “Weatherford is big and it continues to grow. Firefighters see the chance to work for a bigger department for better pay. Politically, it also works because the two departments are so close together.”

The six paid ESD firefighters would start as rookie firefighters with the WFD and be on probation for one year, a standard practice to ensure their skills are up to par and they are “a good fit” for the department. The ESD firefighters would get credit for time served within the ESD for such things like vacation and would also maintain their current pay under the agreement.

“They would start (in Weatherford) about $3,000 or $4,000 more than your average starting firefighter,” Rust said.

ESD No. 3 volunteers would be trained as reservists within the WFD, which are unpaid positions. Rust said the reservists would then be considered for full time hirings if and when they became available.

Both groups have retained attorneys to continue negotiations.

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