The hot button topic of an Emergency Services District in Grimes County finally got to an open, public discussion on Wednesday night.
The formation of an ESD, in short, would create a “grassroots independent government,” created by voters, which would fund fire, and other emergency services in the whole county.
Over an hour and a half of public comments were head during Wednesday’s meeting. One speaking in favor of a county-wide ESD was Michelle Gremillon, one of the original signatures to the petition. She says examples are everywhere.
“As we have seen in Robertson and San Jacinto County, both of whom have county-wide ESD’s, and have served their counties for many years…the volunteer fire departments have preserved their operational autonomy, and their fire department boards have been maintained, while the monetary concerns are mitigated by the ESD paying their expenses,” said Gremillon. “Both ESD’s serve eight to ten VFD’s, and provide EMS services.”
While it might seem new, Grimes County does have an ESD already, for Iola only. But the treasurer of that ESD district, Bob Leiper, says ESD’s are great on their own, but a county-wide ESD can spell trouble.
“You are opening a can of worms, you are talking about raising millions of dollars…you will have five people, not seven for seven fire departments…five people will divide that up. If a fire department needs, or wants more money, they should go to residents of their response district, and say they want to create an ESD for their fire departments. The board members are their residents, it is voted on by their residents, and they only have to worry about their fire department,” said Leiper.
A large majority of arguments against the ESD, of course, centered around tax increases with an ESD, and from where where funding would come.
The public hearing was just that, as no decisions were made on putting an ESD on the ballot. It will be discussed again at future meetings.