By SHELLY WILKISON
By a 4-1 vote Feb. 19, the Board of Commissioners of the Williamson County Emergency Services District #4 approved a plan to remodel the administrative offices in the fire station.
Fire Chief Chancy Bizzell said firefighters will provide the labor at no charge to the ESD. The Board approved the purchase of materials at a cost of $2,888 — funds that will be used from the district’s Money Market account.
ESD Commissioner James Crabtree voted against the proposal.
“I’m not familiar with what is a need or a want. Since I don’t know, I will default to a no unless I hear otherwise,” Crabtree said.
Appointed to the position by Williamson County Commissioners in December 2012, Crabtree said he had not served long enough to know whether the remodel was necessary. He said he had not heard of the idea until Tuesday and did not have time to research it.
Bizzell said the remodel, which will begin right away, was part of the plan to expand the facility two years ago. But when the time came to do the work, the department needed the funds for more urgent needs and the remodel was set aside.
The plan approved this week would turn a front office (used by previous fire chiefs) into a conference room or meeting room and library. Bizzell said the room, which would be used internally for training and meetings, would also be made available to community organizations that need a place to meet.
Chief Bizzell’s current office would become the office for the batallion chiefs and he would move into the space they currently occupy. Carpet and wallpaper would be replaced, and the price includes materials to build a conference table and purchase some chairs.
“I think it would be a good meeting place for some organizations,” said ESD President Sandra Taylor.
Bizzell said people often call or stop by the station looking for a place to have meetings.
Also Tuesday, ESD Treasurer Todd Jackson gave a report on the district’s finances.
“We are sitting in good shape with the budget,” he said. “Four months into the (fiscal) year, we’ve spent 31.2 percent of the budget.”
He reported total expenses to date of $401,000 with some $800,000 remaining in the budget. The district has received 93 percent of its projected $1.209 million in tax revenue for the fiscal year.
In his report on department activities, Bizzell said firefighters had responded to 104 incidents during the past month with 50 percent of those being medical or rescue calls.
The average response time for calls both inside the city of Liberty Hill and in the fire district was 8.20 minutes.
Bizzell informed the Board about a problem regarding radio communications that resulted from a federal requirement to narrow band communications.
He said since the County made the switch to narrow band from VHF, Liberty Hill firefighters can hear the emergency tones, but they cannot hear county dispatchers inside the station. They depend on the hand-held 800 Mhz radios.
Bizzell said although the department has not yet missed a call, it could become a problem if a firefighter inside the station does not have a radio turned on or if he is at an emergency scene or in a noisy environment.
“We are hearing at 15-20 percent of the normal level,” he said.
Bizzell said he expects the County to help resolve the problem quickly by adding equipment to the local communications tower.
Bizzell also reported that the ESD will receive $39,481 from the County this year, which will be used as a lease payment to the County for radio equipment.