By Brenda Young
Commissioners with the Williamson County Emergency Services District #4 discussed Monday the possibility of assessing a sales tax to generate revenue to provide increased coverage for residents.
According to Fire Chief Anthony Lincoln, the area has experienced tremendous growth since it was established in 2001.
“We had a brief presentation from a representative of Safe-D in Pflugerville. He gave information as to what the process would be to go to voters with the idea of imposing a sales tax to support our ESD,” Lincoln said.
“We need to work on strategic planning and identify what our needs will be based on short term and long term goals,” Lincoln said. “We’re pretty much right on budget for now, but we only have one fire station covering approximately 130 square miles, and we’re not able to get to our entire district in a timely manner. We’re going to have to put a plan in place to build other stations and provide additional coverage into this district.”
There are nine full-time and six part-time and volunteer employees in the district, and Lincoln said they respond to approximately 100 emergency calls per month, which is why an additional fire station in the near future is necessary.
“You need to have a plan in place for what you want to do and why you need the funding,” he said. “We would have to go to the voters and ask them to support it and provide the information for voters to decide. They want to open another station in two years, and it’s going to take us that long to plan and figure out how we’re going to pay for it.”
Lincoln said the area targeted for the next station is north of Ronald Reagan Blvd.
“The next one we’re looking at opening is just off Ronald Reagan north of State Highway 29. That allows us to stretch in directions farther east toward Georgetown, which picks up Gabriel’s Overlook and Cimarron Hills. Our goal is to be within five miles of those residents—that’s what we’re trying to achieve. That’s when the residents start to see insurance breaks,” he said.
Lincoln explained homes must be within five miles of a fire station for homeowners to begin receiving ISO (Insurance Services Office) rating discounts.
“You have homeowners in that area saying, ‘Yeah, my taxes are going up, but my homeowners insurance is going down, and it will more than offset my taxes by what I save,’” Lincoln said. “That savings is a very real possibility for people, because if you’re outside more than five miles of a fire station, you’re a class 10 and are basically considered as having no fire protection. If we’re more than five miles out when responding, we probably can’t save it (a structure) anyway.”
ESD#4 covers a 130-square- mile area extending west of Georgetown to the Williamson County line, to the San Gabriel River in Leander, to north of County Road 254, which provides an overlay for the entire city of Liberty Hill.
The State Association of Fire and Emergency Districts (Safe-D) lists their mission as supporting the women and men of emergency service districts throughout the state, as ESDs were established as the political taxing entities to provide emergency fire and medical services. Safe-D also provides continuing education credits, training and conferences for the commissioners that oversee the districts.