Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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July 13, 2014

ESD ready for fire season

Corsicana — Last year’s controversies over the Emergency Services District have calmed down a bit. The Powell Volunteer Fire Department has all but disbanded, no longer answering emergency calls, and renting out its trucks and fire station to the newly formed Emergency Services District Volunteer Fire Department, and the Emergency Services District board has a new head.

The new ESD fire department has 17 volunteers within the district, which is basically the area encompassed by the Kerens ISD, and while they’re still unofficial, they’re answering calls and earning praise from residents in the area.

“The long and short of it is that Powell has better fire protection, not only in the short term but in the long term,” said Powell Mayor Dennis Bancroft. “They have more people ready and able to work the trucks.

“I guess one thing that concerned me was that the new firefighters don’t live in Powell but the response time has been good. They’re continuing the training and everybody that’s part of it is very active in the training and ready for this summer’s fire season,” Bancroft said.

Powell was caught in a quandry earlier this year — a new state law required them to sign over or be prepared to sign over ownership of any equipment to the ESD that was paid for with ESD funds. However, the trucks and the fire station are the property of the Town of Powell, and couldn’t be signed over. The town’s solution was to quit the fire business, and rent out their equipment, including bunker gear, to the newly formed ESD fire department.

The new fire chief for the ESD VFD is Tony Kuta, and the assistant chief is David Foreman, who resigned as president of the ESD board. Foreman’s dual role as president of the taxing entity and accepting a salary as a Navarro County constable turned into a legal question. Foreman quit the ESD post, and Vice President Frank Steed took over as president.

Steed’s style has smoothed some ruffled feathers, according to the firefighters, and things are getting back to normal.

“It’s going good,” said Charlie Bush, Kerens fire chief. “With Frank Steed as president, we’ve come along real well. It’s a vast improvement over what it was.”

Steed has also heard good things about the response times and smoothness of integrating the new fire department into the community.

“I know the councilmen in Powell seem to be very happy with how things are going,” Steed said. “From our standpoint, we’re moving forward."

There’s been some progress in creating a more harmonious relationship between the new ESD VFD, Kerens VFD and Richland/287 VFD, which all make up the ESD partners, Steed said.

“On a normal day-to-day working relationship stuff, it’s a challenge when everybody’s’ learning how to work well together,” Steed said. “The ESD appreciates all of our volunteers. Our new members of fire department, as well as the continuing support of the volunteers from Kerens VFD and 287 RC VFD. They are all serving the Citizens of our ESD well.”

New relationships could mean some other changes in the district, but that would also take an election. When the ESD formed, there was some talk of Roane joining the list of contracting responders, but the Roane volunteer fire department decided not to accept the money because of the supervisory strings attached. Now, though, the Roane VFD has disbanded, unable to get enough volunteers, and Chatfield has extended its wings to include Roane.

Steed said he’d welcome the addition of the Roane or even Chatfield areas into the ESD, although it would take an election by both the new area and the ESD to approve it.

“I’m a proponent of ESDs in our county, and I think the ultimate solution to some of our tax challenges at the county level is to have further expansion of ESDs,” Steed said. “We’d be more than happy to have people come to us and ask if we could expand into their territory.”

—————

Janet Jacobs may be reached via email at jjacobs@corsicanadailysun.com.

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