The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

October 16, 2013

Commissioners hold public hearing for ESD

Election for new taxing district set for November 2014

By MARY RAINWATER
Palestine Herald-Press

PALESTINE —

Anderson County Commissioners took the next step in the creation of Emergency Service District 1 on Tuesday — holding a public hearing that essentially puts the decision on the ballot for November 2014.

Eddie Crockett, chief of the Tennessee Colony Volunteer Fire Department, was the lone speaker during Tuesday's hearing, sharing his concerns about rising costs of operating a VFD, particularly in the area of insurance.

“We were just notified that our insurance rates went from $296 for six months to $5,000 for a year of coverage, per truck,” Crockett explained. “We have two trucks and only receive $13,000 a year from the county.

“This is a prime example of the increasing equipment and operating expenses that we as VFD have to cover,” he continued. “These costs have increased astronomically, with no real explanation. It is unbelievable.”

The creation of the ESD, which would include the coverage areas of Tennessee Colony VFD, Westside VFD and the Bethel-Cayuga VFD, was first brought to the attention of commissioners during a Sept. 9 meeting.

“The taxing district, formed only by voter approval, would be overseen by a five-member board/commission appointed by the county commissioners court,” Crockett told the court. “The county commissioners would no longer support the department financially, but funding would come from taxpayers for training, equipment and ESD operations.”

The three VFDs obtained the required 300 signatures needed in order to get the issue on the ballot and submitted that petition to the county judge prior to the Sept. 9 meeting. The petitioners on the list were verified by the Anderson County Appraisal District and the county election department.

Crockett reported previously that a series of community meetings would be held after Tuesday's petition hearing in order to inform the public about the ESD prior to the election.

“We really want to educate the community about this,” Crockett said. “I think that was a mistake we made when we had tried to do this before.”

County election clerk Casey Brown told commissioners in September that the next possible election date for the issue would not be until November 2014 – over a year from now. County Tax Assessor Collector Teri Garvey also pointed out that, if the election was not held until that time, then it would be 2016 before the ESD began seeing funds.

“We are having problems now — we are losing volunteers and can’t get some of our equipment certified due to financial restraints,” Crockett said, agreeing that they should go ahead with the petition hearing and get the process started.

Also on Tuesday, commissioners:

• APPROVED minutes of previous meetings, budget amendments and bills.

• APPROVED the establishment of a Reinvestment Zone for Eagle Railcar Services, L.P. for the purposes of attracting a major investment and contributing to the expansion of primary employment in Anderson County through the proposed construction and operation of expanded facilities.

• APPROVED entering into an Interlocal Agreement with Rockwell County to collect all necessary data in accordance with the Federal Voting Assistance Program to help better serve military and overseas voters.

• APPROVED a resolution appointing Precinct 1 Commissioner Greg Chapin as the county's representative to the Anderson County Appraisal District's board of directors for 2014-15.

• APPROVED commissioners court meeting dates for 2014 and approved the 2014 holiday schedule for Anderson County employees.

• APPROVED leasing a new copier for the county clerk's office and moving the one purchased in 2011 to the county records office at 811 N. Mallard St.

• APPROVED purchasing a copier for the commissioners secretary's office.

Mary Rainwater may be reached via e-mail at mrainwater@palestineherald.com