Fire chiefs and boards of directors of two new Kerr County ’emergency service districts’ are pleased that their neighbors / constituents in the Center Point and Hunt areas have approved the tax authority to help fund their emergency services.
But they also know that the legality of an ESD means waiting for new five-member commissions to form before actual tax funds start pouring into their bank accounts. They were told that the earliest possible would be late 2022, or even early 2023.
In the meantime, officers from the Hunt and Central Volunteer Fire Departments know which expense categories are likely to top the lists they will make for future budgets.
Ballots in the Hunt and Center Point areas were approved by voters on Nov. 2 by percentages of 72 to 81 percent.
Center point VFD
Center Point Volunteer Fire Chief Charles Holt said when the tax funds for ESD become available one of the first things on his proposed budgets will be a plan to add to their fire station so that every expensive piece of firefighting equipment can be housed indoors, under a roof and protective walls.
And closely behind this plan, he will buy better equipment to serve their community, he said.
“We are seeing strong population growth here,” Holt said. “The owners of the Camp Verde development are now selling their 5 acre lots. And there is talk of a third development on State Highway 27 on the Comfort side of town.
“We need the right equipment to serve our community,” said Holt. “And we all pay this ESD tax too.”
Holt said he wanted to assure their community that they were still operating with the services of 36 volunteers and not switching to a paid fire department.
“Most of my volunteers have jobs that they go to. I have about 12 people who can answer emergency calls between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
One of Holt’s main concerns is keeping an eye on legal expiration dates on equipment such as “self-contained breathing apparatus” tanks, which are initially labeled good for 15 years and regularly inspected. If they are considered “expired” they should be removed from service.
“The bottle alone costs $ 1,200 or more to replace,” Holt said. “And we had 26 inspection failures due to cylinder dates. And there are only three sources for regulatory ARA cylinders.
“The SCBA regulator, mouthpiece, and straps together cost about $ 5,000. It’s more if they also need new cylinders.
He said they had 20; and each is fitted with a face mask with thermal imaging to allow them to see through the smoke.
Describing what he called “bunker gear,” the pants, jackets and other flame retardant items, Holt said they are new with legal expiration dates when they can no longer be used. And his station has eight stations that expire in one year, and nine more stations that are out of service in two years.
“A set costs around $ 500 right now, and that doesn’t count each person’s radio or their ‘wildfire’ dual-use gear. “
He said a set of wild pants and jackets cost around $ 1,000.
On the various fire trucks themselves, Holt said a one-and-a-half inch diameter fire hose nozzle costs between $ 800 and $ 1,000. Larger nozzles can cost $ 1,400 and up.
Overall, he also has issues with the same delays in the supply chain as everyone else, as well as limited options for suppliers on many points.
“When I first hand over the ESD money, I would let everyone here know as much as possible,” Holt said.
Their ESD was approved over 72%. But Holt called the 476 votes “low turnout” because Center Point ESD covers constituencies 2 and 3 and part of Kerrville’s extraterritorial jurisdiction.
Holt said that in November his precinct commissioner Beck Gipson will appoint 5 ESD commissioners who will be approved by the commissioner tribunal. And sometime after choosing the officers, maybe about a month, Holt will present a current budget, a list of “needs” and a draft contract.
“We published an ESD tax rate of $ 0.06 per $ 100 of property valuation; and that’s probably the maximum amount.
“Probably the first check to ESD will arrive at the end of 2022. We may have real funds in the bank account in January 2023.”
Holt said Center Point VFD will continue as before with the ESD designation as part of it. But he sees big changes in the next one to three years.
He tells his “professional volunteers” to look forward to training, better gear, and updated and added gear at both Center Point and Elm Pass. The big expense will be the expansion of the main fire station.
Holt has a complaint or two, mostly about streets without fire hydrants; and landowners who build barriers with poles too close together and / or metal arches too low for their trucks.
His biggest concern is that two fires are happening at once and that there isn’t enough equipment to fight them both.
Chief Lee Pool and Deputy Chief / Board Chairman Kirk Griffin said compared to some years the Hunt VFD had a year with many vehicle crashes, but overall calmer under COVID with less traffic , and some owners of second homes came to Hunt and stayed, taking care of their own belongings. There were hardly any calls from the Kerr Department in several counties.
But they facilitated calls in Fredericksburg, Doss, Harper, Junction and London, as well as a fire between Tierra Linda and Harper in September 2020.
They were called to a rare dangerous condition of an old 50 gallon chlorine bottle leaking in a storage shed. At least four scattered stations responded to what turned into a full-day call.
Their equipment includes a control truck, three pumper trucks, six brush trucks and two annexes with water tanks.
They began this education process more than three years before the November 2 election, using their board and membership contacts with social media, radio stations, donation letters and flyers. , road signs and contacts in homeowners associations.
Their estimate of the tax rate was and is $ 0.02 per $ 100 of assessment.
This new ESD includes a main station on FM1340, one at Canyon Springs, Guadalupe Ranch Estates near MO-Ranch, at Felix Fisher Road and Hwy. 39, and a truck at the Bear Creek Scout Ranch.
“We cover 161 square miles and the Guadalupe River runs through it,” Pool said. “The volunteers have stations in their neighborhoods.
Pool said for their equipment, the tires last seven years; bunker 10 years; trucks 20 years; and air bottles 15 years. Analog radios had to be replaced with digital radios to communicate with the sheriff’s office.
“We have 13 vehicles and most have six tires each,” Griffin said. “Add that to vehicle insurance, the four building structures, and personal firefighter insurance. We were lucky enough to do everything with donations before that. But we have experienced firefighters who also need to help with fundraising. “
They said they also send two to four firefighters a year to the state fire school at College Station, also paying for accommodation, food and tuition. And all equipment must be eligible, and not expired, for participation. That adds up to about $ 3,000 per person.
“Our big annual expenses are insurance, vehicle maintenance, and special AED batteries which cost around $ 250 for two of them,” Pool said.
They said so many things have “lifespans” with expiration dates that must be taken out of service if they are expired.
“ESD will provide guaranteed income for maintenance and operation. We haven’t had money from the county for a year or two, “Griffin said,” and the grants are not guaranteed. Maintenance, operations and repairs are starting to exceed donations.
“We can predict what we need. We planned ahead, stable for now; and we’ve been strict on spending, ”Pool said. “Before, we had surplus military trucks. With ESD, we can buy new vehicles, not just used ones.
He said county tax assessor Bob Reeves told them not to expect ESD money until October 2022.
Pool and Griffin said a full set of firefighter’s clothing costs around $ 3,000; and the air packs are $ 7,000. A great rule of thumb in training is not to do anything that could put yourself or someone else in danger.
They have stated that ESD is allowed to have a “savings account” and that they will always keep their “Beast Blast” every year. But with ESD funding, this event can be more of a “community party” and not just a required fundraiser.