Norwood resigns from WCESD#4 Board
By WAYLON CUNNINGHAM
Commissioner Sandra Taylor Norwood of the Emergency Services District Board has resigned, and finishing her term into December will be the newly-appointed Jeffrey Roemer.
The announcement came out of Monday’s board meeting for the ESD, which oversees the emergency fire and medical services for a wide swath of Williamson County, including Liberty Hill.
Also discussed Monday was a grant to kickstart staffing of an upcoming fire station near Santa Rita Ranch, the legal outcome for the trial of a former employee, and an update on the continued increase in the number of incidents.
Commissioner Norwood resigns
The meeting began with the Board formally recognizing the service of Commissioner Norwood.
She was presented an award by Liberty Hill Fire Chief Anthony Lincoln honoring her 10 years of “outstanding service” to the Board.
“She spent hundreds of hours giving back to the community as she served in various roles on the Board, including Board President,” said County Commissioner Cynthia Long, who appointed Norwood. “I am so thankful for her servant’s heart and all she did for the ESD.”
ESD commissioners are appointed by County Commissioners Courts rather than elected by voters.
“It’s been great working with you, you’ve done so much for us,” said fellow Commissioner James Baker.
In her closing remarks, Norwood said, “It’s been a ride, but I think this is one of the best boards we’ve had. I’m confident that y’all are going to continue forward even better with all the growth.”
Taking her seat to complete her term into December, will be Jeffrey Roemer, whose appointment by the County Commissioners Court the Board also recognized.
Chief Lincoln said that he’s been meeting with Roemer to bring him up to speed on the fire department’s day-to-day operations.
Roemer brings another business-background perspective to the Board. He has over 35 years in management and oversight in the specialty coating industry, providing paint jobs for commercial and military airlines. In 2014, he began his own company, OceanAir, which primarily services the yacht market.
Lincoln said that he appreciates business experience from the Commissioners, as a primary responsibility of the Board is to oversee the Emergency Service District’s budget.
Roemer, who lives in Georgetown near Reunion Ranch, said he was recommended to seek the position by Norwood and Commissioner Keith Bright, who are his neighbors.
He has wanted to be involved in civic affairs for a long time, he said, but previously his job’s travel schedule did not allow him to.
After December, Roemer will be considered for reappointment to a full term by Long.
Commissioners on the board serve two-year terms.
The switch also necessitated new officer elections. Commissioner Dan Clark, who was the Vice President, became President. Commissioners James Crabtree and Keith Bright will continue as the Secretary and Treasurer, respectively. Roemer replaced Norwood as the Board’s Assistant Treasurer.
Budget: “Right on Time”
The Chief also reported that the department has applied for a $1.4 million grant to hire nine new firefighters for an upcoming station.
Up until now, the WCESD #4 has had one station, located on Loop 332, to service a 128-square-mile radius.
Station #2 will be built in 2018 off Ronald Reagan Boulevard, near the Santa Rita Ranch North subdivision.
This is the third time the department has applied for the grant, called the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grants, or SAFER Grant. Its goal is to bring departments up to staffing standards set by the National Fire Protection Association.
A third station is expected to be built in 2021 on County Road 200, near the Clearwater Ranch subdivision.
For the rest of their budget, Lincoln reported that the department was moving through it “right on time.”
He said 25.86 percent of the fiscal year’s $2,557,498.66 budget has been spent to date. The fiscal year began Oct. 1, 2016.
Lincoln also brought to discussion a question of whether the department should offer incentives to commercial investors as Liberty Hill continues to grow. Several had already asked him about it, he said.
Tax rebates or inspection fee waivers were mentioned as possible examples.
Several on the board were against it, but Clark told him to continue researching examples.
January Activities Reports
There were a total of 142 incidents the District responded to in January.
Of those, 65 percent were rescue and medical, 8 percent were fire responses, 11 percent were service calls or citizen assists, 14 percent were “good intent” calls (found ultimately to be false alarms, but made on reasonable grounds), and 1 percent were false alarms and false calls.
There was a 10 percent increase in incidents from the previous year, a rate of growth that has kept consistent for the past several years.
The average response time for January was nine minutes and nine seconds.
Former employee Tiffany Wells sentenced to 3 years
The Board also received news of the conclusion to former employee Tiffany Wells’ legal proceedings. Wells was charged with stealing $42,000 from the WCESD #4 over a two-year period while she was overseeing the department’s payroll and accounting.
Wells has been sentenced to three years in prison with a chance to appeal the sentence. Norwood reported that the judge was influenced by Wells’ lack of a plan to pay the stolen amount back.
Wells was first arrested in 2015 after auditors discovered she had been slowly funneling money into her own account. She was charged with misappropriation of fiduciary property.
If Wells serves her entire sentence, she will not be required to pay the County back, Norwood said, because her prison sentence is “paying her debt to society.”
Clark would be consulted in the event that Wells is considered for parole.
The next meeting of the WCESD Board is 6:30 p.m. March 27 at the fire station, 301 Loop 332.