ESD secures land for third fire station on CR 201
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
With one eye on a mid-May move-in date for the district’s second fire station, Williamson County ESD #4 was busy on the west end purchasing land for Station 3.
There are no concrete plans or timetable for building Station 3, but it has a home when it is approved by the ESD Board. It will be located on CR 201, just west of Clearwater Ranch, where the subdivision exits onto CR 201.
“The new part of (Clearwater Ranch) comes out on CR 201 now,” said ESD Chief Anthony Lincoln. “There will be a few stipulations on how we respond through their district, which is not uncommon because a lot of people don’t want us running hot in their neighborhood. That’s a tradeoff to get out there in a neighborhood, you’ve got to be a good neighbor to get in there. That’s always been our target area. We just didn’t know how close we could get.”
The property was purchased for $325,000, though the original asking price was $400,000.
The ESD has borrowed the purchase funds, and the loan for the land will either be rolled into the station construction project once it begins or if the current rate is better, it will be kept separate.
In addition to finding a location that meets response needs on the west side of the district, Lincoln said finding property that had existing utilities this time was a key factor.
“The big driving factor for that was we went through a lot of heartache on utilities with Station 2,” Lincoln said. “Utilities are such an important issue wherever you go, so when we started looking for property we focused on that.”
At the Station 2 site, because sewer service had to be extended, and electric utilities had to be underground, the ESD paid about $400,000 in utilities alone, even though the land itself was donated.
The Station 3 site is two acres, compared to the three-acre lot where Station 2 is being built.
“We know it will not be as big as the other station,” Lincoln said. “Our goal is to look more like a residential house and blend in with the neighborhood.”
Lincoln feels the new location is situated well to accommodate growth.
“That whole area is going to continue to grow and we know the density is going to get thicker out that way,” Lincoln said. “We’ve had the call volume out there for this for a long time, even without the density out there.”
The likely timetable for construction of the third station, according to Lincoln, is 2021 or 2022.
“All that is dependent on the growth and the funding for us,” Lincoln said. “I really do think we will, by the end of next year, we will start seriously looking at what we are going to try and do and what we want it to look like.”
Purchasing the property now was critical for securing the right location and keeping the investment as affordable as possible.
“It’s not available when you wait. Those projects fill up,” Lincoln said. “And the cost will just go up and up. We will start looking again. Just because we bought land for 3 doesn’t mean we won’t start analyzing where 4 will be.”
Fire Code appeal
The owners of Shooting Star Ranch, Shawn and Monty Oehrlein, are not satisfied with the outcome of the Appeals Board decision regarding the requirement to install a sprinkler system in their venue, and have already initiated what Shawn Oehrlein said is the next-level appeal.
“Our attorney, Terry Irion, has already sent a letter to Mr. Dan Clark (ESD #4 President), and it is the procedure for initiating an appeal to the Williamson County Commissioners Court,” said Oehrlein.
She added that she didn’t feel like the appeals process so far has been fair.
“We were hopeful that it would definitely favor all the different alternatives and things we have looked at,” Oehrlein said. “Definitely this is over-regulation. That’s why we are going to continue forward with it from here. We do feel we will get a fair and reasonable trial as we continue up.”
But according to Lincoln, there is no mechanism in the fire code for a next-level appeal.
“They sent an email to us, wanting to know what the next step was,” Lincoln said. “We passed that on to our attorney and they will respond. But there are no other provisions in the code that has another appeal.”
The Oehrleins were hoping to have their appeal reconsidered at the Williamson County Commissioners Court, but according to Commissioner Cynthia Long there is no option for such an appeal.
“There is no appeal to us,” Long said. “The ESD Board itself can choose to take it up again, but the County’s only authority is we appoint the board, they operate independently.”