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Commissioners talk third county ESD, replacement for retiring auditor
The Wilson County Commissioners Court has scheduled a public hearing for citizens to discuss the possible formation of the county’s third emergency services district (ESD). The hearing will be held Wednesday, Aug. 29, at 6:30 p.m., in the courtroom at the Wilson County Criminal Justice Center in Floresville.
The commissioners’ unanimous decision to schedule the hearing occurred during an Aug. 2 special meeting. The hearing became necessary because of the success of a recent petition drive, which asked residents living in the area currently covered by the Stockdale Emergency Medical Services (EMS) whether they wanted to form an ESD for the provision of ambulance services.
Wilson County Clerk Eva Martinez reported that of the 141 signatures on the petition, 121 were determined as valid by the county’s Elections Office. Of those signatures, 119 were owners of property in the proposed district.
Wilson County Attorney Russell Wilson said just 100 signatures were needed to prompt the public hearing, which will precede a vote by the commissioners court calling for an election in November.
The county already has two ESDs. The first, ESD No. 1, was created after La Vernia-area voters overwhelmingly supported the measure in the November 2008 election. Previous attempts to create ESDs in La Vernia and Kicaster failed.
After a board was seated and after months of work, ESD No. 1 chose the La Vernia Volunteer Fire Department as its service provider.
Two years later, voters in the Eagle Creek area approved the creation of ESD No. 2, which will fund fire and ambulance services to an area north of Floresville. Since its formation, the board has been plagued with contention over the selection of its service providers. Negotiations between the board and the Eagle Creek Volunteer Emergency Services broke down earlier this year, prompting the board to re-bid its ambulance services contract.
In May 2011, a group of citizens, including volunteer EMS personnel in the Stockdale area, attempted to form an ESD to provide ambulance services to the 280-square-mile area covered by the Stockdale EMS. The measure was defeated by a vote of 200-175, which officials said contributed to the EMS shutting down for 20 days in October.
The commissioners held a second special meeting Aug. 3 related to the departure of former County Auditor Ray Wolff, who resigned effective July 31 to retire. That was the same date that district judges Stella Saxon and Donna Rayes of the 218th and 81st judicial districts, respectively, appointed Verna K. Gorzell as the county’s interim auditor.
During the Aug. 3 meeting, the commissioners reviewed the order related to Wolff’s resignation and the order appointing Gorzell. (See related article, page 2A http://www.wilsoncountynews.com/article.php?id=44983 .)
What is an ESD?
An Emergency Services District (ESD) is a political subdivision created under Title 9, Subtitle B, Chapter 775 of the state’s Health and Safety Code. Once voters create a district to fund the provision of fire or ambulance services -- or both -- the ESD assesses a property tax to fund its operations. By law, that tax never can exceed 10 cents per $100 of assessed property value.
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