By Anton Riecher
The Medina County Emergency Services District No. 2 board of commissioners voted unanimously Dec. 27 to put forward Chris Davis as a replacement for Homer E. Delgado, a board member who resigned in November.
On a motion by board member Jeff Howard, seconded by Chris McGuiart, the board voted to submit Davis’ name to the Medina County Commissioners Court for consideration to fill the vacancy.
“We don’t have people jumping through the door to serve on the ESD board,” board president Todd Summers said.
Video coverage of the entire ESD No. 2 meeting is posted on the Devine News YouTube channel at youtube.com/watch?v=u9p56RvcInE&t=22.
Davis, a real estate appraiser, currently serves on the Devine school board and has a son, Blaine, who belongs to the Devine Fire Department. Blaine is also enrolled in the fire department’s emergency medical technician (EMT) high school training program.
“The one other candidate willing to serve had to be turned down because he technically lives outside the boundaries of the district,” Summers said.
In other business, the board discussed the steps necessary to get on the April election ballot with a proposal to obtain a share of local sales taxes as allowed under state law. ESD may collect sales tax, provided an election is held and voters approve the measure.
“I haven’t heard anything from our attorney, Ken Campbell, so I emailed him,” Summers said. “His response was ‘trying to get to it.’”
“’Sorry, but I have some clients with all-encompassing issues right now, beginning with the FBI and working down,’” Summers quoted Campbell as writing. Summer was quick to clarify that the FBI issue “has nothing to do with us.”
In Texas, 8.25 percent is the maximum allowed sales tax rate. The state collects 6.25 percent, leaving 2 percent available to eligible local jurisdictions, including ESDs. At present, the share that ESD No. 2 is entitled to is going unclaimed.
Summers said he is sure that Campbell realizes the tight timeline to educate the public in preparation for the April ballot.
“The thing is that we, as a board, cannot sell it,” Summers said. “If somebody asks us questions we can give them what we know about it. But we can’t sell it to the people. The fire department is in a different position. They’ve got a little more leeway in how they present it.”
Success will mean promoting the ballot initiative to the various charitable organizations such as the Lion’s Club and other groups to “put the word out and help people understand what it is.”
Devine Fire Department Assistant Chief Patrick DuBose told the board that catching up on overdue maintenance is proving to be a drain on the department’s financial resources.
“Maintenance is costing us a lot of money,” DuBose said. “With previous administrations (maintenance) was not something that they were looking at. That’s why our accounts are down by a little bit.”
He noted that recent maintenance has found equipment operating with oil filters dated from 2017.
The fire department currently has a bank balance of $40,715 in its accounts. With the new fiscal year beginning in October, the department has only received $750 to date in grant money, DuBose said.
“We’ve only had three or four firefighters go to school for us to get grant reimbursements,” he said.
In her report, ESD No. 2 treasurer Nancy Pepper said the district has only collected about $46,000 or about 11 percent of its taxes for the new fiscal year. Expenses to date have been nearly $12,000 or about five percent of the expected tax revenue.
“They are really going to start coming in now,” Pepper said. “We should get quite a bit. We’ve already gotten quite a bit in December and in January we’ll get even more.”
The district’s operating funds total about $190,000 of which $100,000 is in a money market account drawing about $150 a month in interest. Interest and sinking for ESD No. 4 is at $37,000 and the fire station loan balance is $648,041, Pepper said.
Bills paid to date total $76,000, including $18,350 for the installation of a new emergency generator at the fire station. Board member Howard reported that the completing that installation will require a short power outage at the station, followed by another two to three weeks for further adjustments.
The generator must operate at a full load for at least four hours before installation is complete, he said.
The fire department plans to use tax exempt red or dyed diesel to operate the generator. However, application for a permit from the Texas Comptroller can only be made by the ESD as a government entity, not the fire department, DuBose said.
Reporting on emergency runs, DuBose said the fire department logged 42 incidents in November with 31 personnel involved. Of those incidents, 14 were medical emergencies, eight involved fires, six involved accidents, four involved utility issues, three were hazardous materials emergencies such as leaking oil or spilled fuel, two unauthorized burns, one controlled burn and one was a public service event.
For the 2022 year to date report ending in November, the department reported 321 emergency runs compared to 502 runs during the same period the previous year.
“Our run volume is down which is a good thing despite having a busy grassfire season through the summer,” DuBose said.
Of those 321 emergency runs, 17 involved structure fires, 11 involved vehicle fires and 64 involved grassfires with nearly 400 acres scorched. One civilian fatality Oct. 6 in was included in the statistics, a morning trailer fire on Colonial Parkway near the cemetery.
“We brought out the Bexar County Fire Marshal’s office and did an investigation but everything was completely gone,” DuBose said. “By the time we got there it was almost completely down to the ground.”
On the positive side, DuBose reported that the fire department’s high school EMT training program has enrolled nearly 40 students split between Devine and Hondo.
“We have Medina Valley High School and Natalia High School talking to (Fire Chief Greg Atkinson) about potentially doing it next year,” he said.
Beginning Jan. 7, the fire department will conduct adult EMT night classes on Saturdays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, DuBose said. To date 15 students have signed up for the classes paid for by the school districts.
“We are becoming a very big training facility for the community,” DuBose said. “People are just reaching out to us now.”
By Anton Riecher