Edna Fire Department's could be axed because of budget woes

JR Ortega By JR Ortega

July 20, 2012 at 2:20 a.m.
Updated July 22, 2012 at 2:22 a.m.

The city of Edna could be without full fire and medical services if a solution for a tight budget cycle is not soon realized.

Wearisome discussion at Thursday night's city council meeting circulated around a projected $482,387 deficit the Edna Fire Department would leave and whether so large a deficit equated to keeping the department, said Kurt Janica, a fire department shift lieutenant.

The fire department, which has eight paid firefighters/medics, is expected to bring in about $301,087 in revenue of the department's projected $783,474 budget.

Revenue is generated from medical calls and is all contingent on residents who've used the service paying the bill.

"We're not in the business of profit," Janica said. "We don't turn people away."

The expected deficit now has the city council scrambling for viable options - including having the Jackson County Hospital District pick up medical services.

This is a problem, Janica said.

"They are proposing to do away with the EMS budget," Janica said. "But in that EMS budget is not only EMS ... they (residents) are also getting the commissioned fire department, hazmat, fire inspections and grant writing."

Losing the EMS budget would mean a possible increase in homeowners' insurance rates because of lowered Insurance Service Office ratings, Janica said.

However, Edna would not be completely without fire services. The city of about 7,000 residents and the 315 square miles of county the fire department oversees would have to rely on Edna volunteer firefighters and the Victoria County and Ganado Volunteer Fire Departments. Also, the hospital district has its own EMS, which answers medical calls and transfers patients.

But volunteers won't cut it, said Janica, who cited a July fire in which only one volunteer showed up. Had it not been for the paid staffed responders, the fire could have gotten out of control.

Edna Mayor Joe Hermes said the department will not be going away anytime soon.

"I still see the fire department being part of the city operation next fiscal year," Hermes said.

Hermes declined to go into specifics as to the possibility of the hospital district taking over medic services.

"No decision has been made yet," Hermes said. "This gives us time to explore more options. Right now, nothing has actually changed. I think it's way too early for this to be circulated."

Now is the time for this information to be circulated because it directly impacts taxpaying citizens, Janica said.

The budget has to be finalized by Sept. 30. The mayor asked for two budgets to be presented at the Aug. 2 city council meeting - one budget with a commissioned fire department and one without.

Lloyd "Buster" Chase, the city's EMS director and fire marshal, said the fire and medical services will continue smoothly until a decision is made.

"The city of Edna fire and EMS will continue to provide the best care and protection for its citizens during this time of deliberation," Chase said in an emailed statement.



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