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Will Stockdale get a police force and another ESD?
Wilson County NewsMay 28, 2014 | 3,126 views | 1 comment
What can a small city trim from its budget to provide funding for citizens’ safety? Can it be done without raising taxes?
The Stockdale City Council faced these questions during a May 19 budget workshop. After lengthy debate, it was starkly apparent that there are needs for better safety in the city, from the perspective of fighting fire and crimes. Could a police department and another emergency services district (ESD) be in the cards?
Crime fighting and traffic safety issues were raised, along with a need for more law enforcement in the city.
Stockdale City Marshal Jim Stewart offered costs regarding more manpower, using the city of Poth as a reference. Additional law-enforcement costs range from $70,000 for one full-time officer to $210,000 for two or three officers, he said.
Councilmen Sherry Lambeck and Scott Soden agreed that the safety of citizens needs to be addressed. Lambeck said drug problems in the city should be the top issue.
Stewart said in a small town “pressure and presence” is the key to combat this. Lawmen have to patrol and citizens need to assist by calling in any leads.
City Manager Banks Akin suggested volunteers may offer assistance, but Stewart questioned the wisdom and feasibility of this.
Funding and personnel were key topics, with options discussed, such as:
•To continue with the present law enforcement, with Stewart and Deputy Marshal David Rice working one day each.
•The city to provide 40 hours of law protection, with more coverage by the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office. Stewart will explore the options with the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office.
•Request more financial assistance from the school district.
•Get assistance patrolling from Wilson County Pct. 4 Constable Galen Jansky.
Fire safety was raised by Chief Edwin Baker of the Stockdale Volunteer Fire Department (VFD).
He advised the department needs a new fire engine and requested stipends for the chief and firefighters.
The department currently runs two fire engines and one brush truck. The average age of the fleet is 22 years. Baker said one fire engine only has one to three years’ life left. If the engine is not safe to take to a fire scene, he will not allow the volunteers to respond.
“My job is not to kill someone,” Baker said.
In addition to his responsibility for the firefighters’ safety, the fire chief is responsible for the department’s paperwork.
Baker said he resigned in February, due to funding issues. The council rescinded acceptance of his resignation May 6.
Akin, Soden, and Lambeck suggested the fire chief should have the same pay as the city marshal and fire marshal. Baker declined, and Stockdale Mayor Ray Wolff reminded the council that the item must be placed on the agenda for a meeting, and this was only a workshop.
Baker advised he could not remain chief, unless some pay arrangement can be reached.
The fire department receives income from the city of Stockdale of $10,000, and from Wilson County, $27,000. Some funding also comes from the Stockdale VFD Ladies Auxiliary and fund-raisers.
An alternate funding source for the volunteer fire department was raised -- the creation of an Emergency Services District (ESD), which can levy an ad valorem tax rate. In May 2011, citizens voted against an ESD for the Stockdale Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and the Stockdale VFD.
In November 2012, voters approved an ESD for the Stockdale EMS.
If enough signatures for a petition are obtained and the city of Stockdale and Wilson County Commissioners approve the request, the matter of a new ESD could be put to voters in November.
Also in attendance: Councilman Saul Bosquez, City Secretary Thania Santos, and Stockdale Deputy Marshal David Rice.
Stockdale VFD calls
Stockdale Fire Chief Edwin Baker said in the past the firefighters responded to 30 to 50 calls annually. Now the number is near 150. In 2013, the break down of calls included:
•City -- 40
•County -- 76
•Mutual aid -- 19.
In 2014, the breakdown includes:
•City -- 10
•County -- 33
•Mutual aid -- 12
•Out of county -- 7.
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