By Janet Jacobs
Corsicana Daily Sun
The Navarro County Emergency Services District #1 is going ahead with plans to start its own volunteer fire department, according to discussions at the group’s meeting held Tuesday.
Frank Steed, vice president of the board and acting president since the resignation of David Foreman, proposed the action. The reason is because the Powell Fire Department hasn’t signed a contract with the district yet, and, he admitted, to help force Powell to make up its mind.
“We need to make sure we have coverage on the western side of the district,” he said. “They (Powell) still have to decide what they want to do.”
The ESD board was told that Powell will likely vote on the contract Monday at the city council’s regular meeting. Powell’s volunteer fire department is closely tied to the city, so the contract had to be altered to respect the city’s rights in light of new state laws giving the ESD ownership of shared fire department property.
Steed’s recommendation was to call a special ESD meeting in the next two weeks with the ESD’s attorney, Ken Campbell, and anyone interested in participating in the fire department.
“I think that will help Powell also in making a decision,” Steed said.
If Powell does sign the contract it might not happen, Steed said in response to a question from one of the Kerens volunteers.
“We can’t do this overnight anyway,” he said.
About 17 people have said they’re interested in joining a new volunteer fire department, Steed said. However, board members, including Steed, expressed concerns that they might be volunteers who are already on the rolls of either Powell or Kerens.
Braz Davis, new to the commission, and who is both a professional firefighter with Corsicana and a volunteer with Kerens, said he’d be interested in seeing who these new volunteers are and where they live.
“If they’re coming from Waxahachie or the other side of the lake, (a fire) will be over (before they arrive),” Davis said. “That’s my concern.”
Jay Petty, who is also a new member on the board, questioned if Powell has the necessary number of volunteers now.
“If Powell does sign the contract, do they have the personnel to fulfill the contract?” he asked.
There’s a shortage of trained volunteers to cover the emergencies in the area, Davis said.
“We’ve got to get more bodies — we’ve got to get more trained bodies,” he said.
Tuesday’s meeting was as much about acquainting the new board members with the procedures of the ESD as it was a regular meeting. They went through the financial checkpoints, and discussed the fire reports and other issues.
A resident in Kerens went on Facebook complaining that he’d gotten a bill following a fire on his property, which wasn’t a bill, but was a report that’s given to the Fire Service about the costs of fight the fire. Steed recommended that the fire department explain better to the resident for public relations’ sake.
Kirsten Griffiths, the bookkeeper for the Kerens Volunteer Fire Department, asked if she could join the department and was asked to hold off, so there wouldn’t be any appearance of impropriety, since she is paid by the ESD.
The meeting was the first for the new board members Davis, Petty and Judy Kilgore who were appointed Monday by the county commissioners court. In response to criticisms of the previous board, Davis and Petty are professional firefighters. Kilgore is an accountant.
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