PALO PINTO – A year after Palo Pinto County Commissioners rejected an effort to establish a new emergency services district on the east side of Possum Kingdom Lake, the effort has resurfaced.
If Monday’s court session was an indication, the latest effort will meet the same fate.
Commissioners unanimously accepted the petition request as valid and set an Aug. 12 hearing date.
In August 2018, a similar petition seeking to create ESD No. 4 to provide emergency medical services in the Possum Kingdom East VFD service area failed on the grounds that ESD No. 1 is already providing that service and by state statute would have to relinquish that area to another ESD.
“We can’t do that,” said ESD No. 1 board member Carolyn Land. “Financially it would destroy us.”
ESD No. 1 relies on sales tax collections within the countywide district – outside ESD No. 2 and the City of Mineral Wells – to help fund its 24/7 emergency medical services contract with Sacred Cross EMS.
The Denton-based company is operating three full-time ambulances in the county at an annual contract cost of $825,000. Sales tax receipts in the district are currently averaging about $672,000 annually and heavily rely on taxable sales in the Possum Kingdom area. The county is currently subsidizing the remainder of the contract.
The latest petition was filed with Palo Pinto County Elections Administrator Laura Watkins, who in turn delivered the petition to commissioners. Needing 100 verified signatures of registered voters owning property within the proposed service boundary, Watkins told the Index the ESD No. 4 petition contained 183 total signatures, of which 111 were deemed valid.
The presented petition was signed by Shaugn Stanley and Lois Kelln, who both listed Possum Kingdom addresses.
Since the ESD No. 1 established 911 emergency medical service and awarded the contract to Sacred Cross EMS over a bid tendered by PK East EMS, residents on the lake’s east side have tried to re-establish the local volunteer service as its primary EMS provider. The county’s volunteer EMS services saw their funding agreements with ESD No. 1 terminated with implementation of the county-wide contract, and 911 calls for medical service within the ESD No. 1 service area are dispatched to Sacred Cross EMS.
A year ago representatives of Possum Kingdom East EMS denied they were running “rogue,” accused of receiving and answering emergency medical service calls. The state licenses and authorizes Possum Kingdom Lake Fire and Ambulance Service to serve as an emergency medical service provider and treat and transport patients. PK East EMS previously held private contracts with groups and organizations to directly provide medical services by contacting the station directly.
“We’ve already been through this last year ... and now we are about to spend money to do the same thing,” said Pct. 4 Commissioner Jeff Fryer, referring to the costs for publishing notices leading up to the Aug. 12 public hearing date.