Questions About The New M-C Fire Rescue Department
How did the City of McLendon-Chisholm end up needing a $300k annual budget when everything was fine just 5-6 years ago with a $20k budget?
Most of the budget increase in recent years was to cover the cost of paying four full-time firefighters to be on duty 7am to 7pm six days a week plus salary for the Fire Chief. Some additional money was paid for vehicles and equipment with the understanding that it would eventually revert to the City when the VFD became part of the city services. All MCVFD budgets prior to 2017-2018 were approved with the intent of staying ahead of the City’s growth and increasing need for better services.
Did the City pay for the brush truck and fire engines now held by MCVFD?
The 2014 Pumper/Engine was purchased with a $200,000 Texas A&M Forest Service grant plus approximately $100,000 of depreciation/replenishment funds paid to the MCVFD by the City. The 2017 Skeeter Brush Truck was purchased with depreciation/replenishment funds paid to MCVFD by the City. The trucks are titled in MCVFD’s name.
Will those vehicles be returned to the City of McLendon-Chisholm?
The Texas A&M Forest Service requires that vehicles purchased with their grants remain in service protecting citizens for 10 years. If the vehicles are sold the money must be returned to Texas A&M Forest Service. If MCVFD decided to transfer the 2014 Pumper/Engine to MC Fire Rescue that transfer would have to be approved by the Texas A&M Forest Service prior to change of title. Because the 2017 Skeeter Brush Truck was not purchased with grant money, the MCVFD can sell or transfer it at will.
Do we have adequate fire protection now?
Yes, we still have fire protection from MCVFD (but without a contract) and via mutual aid from neighboring cities.
How long will the MCVFD continue to provide service without a contract?
No one knows for sure. They agreed to serve Fire District 22 with or without a contract on October 10, 2017.
What is City Council doing to fix the fire protection problem?
The City Council has a responsibility to ensure public safety and has been unable to negotiate a contract with MCVFD, so steps are being taken to make the city self-reliant. As of late April 2018, they have (a) hired James Simmons to serve as Fire Chief for MC Fire Rescue. Chief Simmons is also serving as MC Fire Marshal, Fire Inspector, and Arson Investigator; (b) appointed a committee of citizens to identify issues and investigate viable options to have a municipal owned emergency services (fire rescue) department; (c) begun the process of rezoning the city hall property from Planned Development to “Office 1”. The City is requesting that the building material list approved for “Office 1” be modified to include metal siding for only Municipal owned and operated buildings. The change will allow a fire station to be built at that location for less cost than a brick structure.
Will a public meeting be held before the final plan is approved by Council?
Yes, after the committee has completed its work and presented options to City Council, a public meeting will be held to hear comments and further refine the plan.
How urgent is the need to resolve the situation?
Very urgent – it’s a high priority for the City Council. Target date for the public meeting is July 2018, and passing ordinances to implement the changes will be done by Council ASAP.
How much will it cost for the City of McLendon-Chisholm to run its own Fire Rescue Department?
The Citizen Committee will produce those projections for 1 year, 3 years and 5 years.
If a City-owned FD is more expensive than contracting with MCVFD, will taxes be raised again?
The City Council wants to keep taxes low. If the Citizens desire a grand department with a substantial amount of amenities then it is up to the Citizens to indicate that’s what they want. For now, Council is trying to do all the research and utilize Chief Simmons’ expertise at minimum cost.
How long will it take to build a fire rescue department with adequate equipment and personnel?
The financing to purchase the apparatus, gear, and building can be completed in 2-3 weeks, building the Station would be a 60 – 90 day project. Chief Simmons is confident he will have personnel available when the equipment arrives.
Why did the City hire a senior fire official before they even had a Fire Department?
After the Council passed the ordinance to create MC Fire Rescue the next step was filing the necessary paperwork with the State. The State’s first requirement is to name a “Head of Department”. Mr. Simmons, who at that time was serving as a consultant to the City, was qualified and agreed to act as “Head of Department” for MC Fire Rescue. When the City Council was made aware that Mr. Simmons was available for employment, they acted immediately. It is not often that you find someone with his qualifications and experience who is willing to head a small department like ours at the prescribed salary.
Will there be enough volunteers to support a City Volunteer Fire Department when there is already a shortage of qualified fire fighters?
Chief Simmons, who has been an instructor with North Texas Fire Academy, believes there are personnel available (including off-duty fire fighters who currently live in the area) who will take a shift. He will also create non fire fighting volunteer opportunities that will allow citizens to play an active role with the MC Fire Rescue Department.
Where would a new station be built and at what cost?
The most affordable option is to put it on the City Hall property. A metal building (e.g. Morton) could be erected for an estimated $350,000 dollars. A lease purchase option is available to the City that will allow this cost to be spread over time thus eliminating the need for new taxes.
Will the new Fire Rescue Department respond only to calls within the City (and for giving mutual aid), or will residents of the unincorporated portion of Fire District 22 continue to get service without paying for it?
The City will enter into automatic aid and mutual aid agreements to help protect the residents in the unincorporated areas for Fire District 22.