WCESD#4 one step closer to building second fire station

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By Christine Bolaños

The Williamson County Emergency Services District #4 is one step closer to building a second fire station after commissioners voted to designate funds for the project on Monday. The Liberty Hill-based ESD will appropriate funds from the reserve revenues to pay for architectural design and associated site costs.

During last year’s budget process, commissioners and staff discussed using reserve funds to pay for the architectural and design costs in order to reduce some of the debt costs for the station. The ESD does not know the exact cost of the project at this point, but it was estimated to be $300,000 at the time.

Funding was not previously allocated in the budget so commissioners moved forward with a budget amendment on Monday night in order to officially appropriate that funding. The funds would be spent from the ESD’s Money Market account and tracked under the “Special Projects” account for fire station design.

“We’re going to need to make a budget amendment because we’re going to see costs in the very near future,” Fire Chief Anthony Lincoln told commissioners. He cautioned them that it is not known what the actual costs will be as the ESD is still waiting for project proposals. However, he said, he expects the project will be within 8 percent of the estimate.

The ESD Board also approved budget transfers from special projects accounts to operational accounts for the employment of three new firefighters at mid-year. Commissioners previously approved the positions, but the transfer remained to be made.

The annual personnel, operating and capital expenses associated with these positions for the rest of the year is $82,564.

“We are hiring these people for half a year so it’s basically half of what the cost for a full year would be,” Lincoln told The Independent following the meeting.

The associated costs for fiscal 2016 and every year after that will be $154,111.

In an effort to plan ahead at Lincoln’s request, commissioners set a timeline for the upcoming fiscal 2016 budget planning process.

The calendar includes meetings on June 13, July 11; budget presentation on Aug. 8; public hearings on Aug. 22 and August 29; and adoption of the budget scheduled for Sept. 12, just days before the required deadline of Sept. 15.

Lincoln said he wanted to have the budget schedule set before going on vacation and completing a teaching stint at Texas A&M in the coming months.

An update on legal proceedings regarding the case of former employee Tiffany Wells was scheduled during the closed portion of the meeting. However, President Sandra (Taylor) Norwood, said there were not any updates and therefore, there was nothing to discuss. No executive session was held and no comments made in regards to the item. She said she hoped to have an update by the next meeting.

The ESD held an open house for the community over the weekend. Some 35 to 50 children and adults attended the event, which was publicized via fliers at local schools, in The Independent, on the ESD website.

“I thought it was a really neat event,” said Commissioner James Crabtree. “Thank you for putting that on.”

Lincoln reported 92 incidents during the month of April during his monthly report. Sixty-four percent of those cases were rescue and medical, followed by 8 percent fire response, 11 percent service calls/assists and 12 percent good intent calls. The rest of the incidents the ESD responded to included false alarm and false calls as well as hazardous conditions (no fire).

Overall average response time for April was 8 minutes and 59 seconds compared to overage average response time for March, which was 9 minutes and 39 seconds. Average district response time was 8 minutes and 10 seconds in March and 8 minutes and 59 seconds in April.

Response time is down, and therefore, improved, when compared to average response time in 2015, which was 9 minutes and 18 seconds.

Lincoln announced the ESD received a loaned Kawasaki ATV from Central Texas Power Sports of Georgetown to use for one year. The ESD will need to provide insurance and maintenance.

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