LAMPASAS — After enjoying a smooth, 6-month collaboration on the construction phase of the new joint-use fire station, City Council and County Commissioners engaged in a heated discussion Tuesday, ignited by the city requesting the county help fund a third full-time firefighter to round out the department’s rotating shifts.
City and county officials gathered in July to celebrate the opening of the $1 million facility at 1107 E. Fourth St., which began operating at the new location in April.
“The long and short of it is, that’s why we’re here today — to figure out how we’re going to do this, and basically, how we’re going to share the service,” Mayor Pro Tem Chris Harrison said. “Of course, we have a paid fire department and a volunteer fire department. We pay our city employees to work in the city, and we’re sending our firemen outside the city. They’re making county calls, so to me, somewhere along the line the county needs to step up and subsidize some of the cost share with the city.”
Mayor Jerry Grayson said the city pays its firefighters’ salaries; however, fire department officials are often required to leave their municipal posts to help contain fires around the county.
“I don’t know how much longer we can continue to make all those calls without some kind of agreement,” Grayson said.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Robert Vincent, addressing the group on behalf of the commissioners, said the county also operates with budget limitations and has provided equipment and personnel to the city on many occasions without asking for compensation.
“We’ve always tried to work together,” Vincent said. “When we bring up the subject of working together, there are a lot of things we’ve done to help out and we’ve never asked for a penny. I think we should continue that way. Years ago, we tried to get out of the ambulance business, and that didn’t go over too well. We have one source of income — taxation.”
Vincent pointed out a number of expenses that impact the county’s budget, including a recurring subsidy for emergency services.
County Auditor Chris Munn confirmed the commissioners’ budget allows for a $120,000 subsidy each year to help with EMS operations. Vincent said the private ambulance service claims it does not receive funding from everyone in the service district, resulting in the need for financial assistance.
In an effort to prevent the county from paying for city personnel, Munn asked city officials to request a specific dollar amount and present that to the commissioners for approval. If approved, the request will appear as a “Contract Services” line item on the county budget, and the city can use the funds at its discretion.
“We’ve got a nice facility and we’ve worked well together, and I don’t want to mess this up,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Alex Wittenburg said.