ESD Commissioners discuss new fire station, strategic plan

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By Christine Bolaños

Williamson County Emergency Services District #4 commissioners discussed updates to the department’s strategic plan and impacts of opening a new fire station at Monday’s regular meeting.

President Sandra Taylor Norwood was not present, and after Kirk Lowe stepped down to move his family to Columbus, Ohio for a new job, only three commissioners were present: Dan Clark, James Baker and James Crabtree. The attendance was enough for a quorum.

Fire Chief Anthony Lincoln presented the updated strategic plan to commissioners. The document, which is available to taxpayers via www.libertyhillfire.org, includes a history of the department, demographics of the area served by the ESD, safety initiative, organizational expectations, vision, mission and goals.

The document also contains the fire chief’s philosophy, services and resources, facilities, daily operational service delivery, major factors affecting the future, funding and cost of growth and operational strategies.

“It shows what we want to do in five years and see if we can afford to stay on track,” Lincoln said. “If timing doesn’t allow us to do it, then we can move it to another year. This document gives us something to look at.”

Among the expectations expressed are fiscal responsibility, ability to adapt to changing needs of customers, open and honest communication, maintain fire fighting skills and update them regularly, and much more.

The vision states in part that the ESD is called to provide the “highest quality safety services” including emergency response, emergency prevention and community education.

The strategic plan also lists a number of goals, some of which relate to an increase in percentage of fires confined to the room or area of origin, “high-quality first responder services as part of an integrated emergency medical care system” and to attract and retain quality employees.

The facilities portion of the document includes a brief description of the current fire station as well as a description for projected fire stations, which could eventually total five.

Fire station 2 will be located in the area of the Santa Rita development north of U.S. Highway 29, about two miles on Ronald Reagan.

“Station should be a minimum of two large bays and about 7,800 square feet,” the document states. “Station should house one engine and one squad fire apparatus.”

The facility covers the eastern portion of the fire district bordering the City of Georgetown and the WCESD No. 8 response area. The southern portion borders the City of Leander while the northern portion borders with Florence WCESD No. 7.

The original timeline estimated construction starting in late 2016 and the opening of the station in the last quarter of 2018. Due to delays, Lincoln said he now expects the station to open in the first quarter of 2018.

Major factors affecting the future include increased staffing to ensure the needs of the community are met and the ESD is in compliance with National Fire Protection Association Standards. Increase service demands will challenge the department’s budget.

In the operational strategies portion of the document, the work with architect to design the second fire station is estimated to cost $300,000. The ESD needs to determine if resources are available to staff a temporary facility with two persons and one squad apparatus daily in the area where the proposed fire station will be built.

Cost of equipment for the new fire station is estimated to total more than $50,000.

Cost of engine apparatus for fire station no. 2 is projected at $560,000.

Cost of squad apparatus for the new fire station is estimated at $150,000.

Cost of equipment on the engine for the new fire station is projected at $255,000.

Cost of equipment on the squad for the new fire station is estimated at $60,000.

The 2016-17 budget includes a $2.3 million estimated construction cost for the fire station, which will be 7,800 square feet.

“We want to start trying to project what those costs are going to be,” Lincoln. “That way it’s not going to be a big shock. We know it’s going to be expensive.”

Lincoln reminded commissioners that having projections is prudent for transparency and planning purposes.

“The general public can see we’re trying to provide these services,” Lincoln said. “All of this money is needed to run emergency services and we’re just part of this area that’s growing. All we can do is plan and project and keep moving forward.”

No action was taken related to the strategic plan.

“It’s just making sure you’ve got it in the back of your mind,” Lincoln told commissioners, alluding that the items will come back up on future agendas.

“This is a nice thing to have,” Commissioner James Crabtree said. “It’s like a road map of where we’re going.”

Other commissioners agreed, noting this is the first time they remember having a strategic plan for the fire department.

In other business, Lincoln reported the ESD received a draft related to a contract for the architectural design of the new fire station. There are some questions that need to be resolved before it moves forward, including exact acreage.

Former ESD employee Tiffany Wells was arraigned and has her hearing date scheduled on Sept. 12.

“Sandra asked me to pass that on,” Commissioner James Baker said.

According to the fire chief’s report, there were 118 incidents in June, including 54 percent rescue and medical. The rest of the responses were for fire, service calls/citizen assist, good intent calls, false alarm and false call and hazardous condition.

Average district response time was 7 minutes and 55 seconds in June compared to 7 minutes and 24 seconds in May.

Average response times have decreased compared to 2015, when the average response time was 9 minutes and 18 seconds, and in 2014, when the average response time was 8 minutes and 26 seconds.

Lincoln said WCESD No. 4 staff participated in a Williamson County search and rescue exercise held at River Ranch County Park on County Road 282.

Lowe was awarded a small plaque in appreciation for his months of service as commissioner of the ESD.

Lincoln told The Independent immediately following the meeting that the county is responsible for finding a replacement and the ESD has not received updates yet. He said Lowe resigned in May.

The next WCESD No. 4 meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 8.

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