City, county working together helps all

By the Advocate Editorial Board
April 15, 2017 at 4:12 p.m.

City and county leaders in Victoria have renewed their spirit of working together for the health and safety of all residents.

While that may sound like a daily occurrence, the teamwork was recently in question when it came to agreeing how much the county would pay to use the city's emergency services in rural parts of the county.

They haven't agreed on the amount just yet, but most importantly, they have agreed to work together to reach a solution.

That agreement speaks highly of officials at both agencies as they recognize the health and safety of all residents is more important than getting caught up in a long debate over numbers and percentages.

At question is what portion of the city's $13.58 million emergency services budget for 2017 and 2018 the county should pay and how often the contract should be negotiated. The budget funds the fire and ambulance services.

The county has paid a portion of the budget for more than two decades, with the contract renegotiated every two years.

Rumors started flying around the community that the county was considering ending its contract with the city and going its own way for fire and EMS services. That would be terribly inefficient and costly and not in the best interest of city or county residents. Fortunately, county commissioners have since said they have no plans to cancel the contract.

These rumors apparently started after county commissioners met in executive session to discuss the contract. That might be technically legal to do under the negotiations exception of the Texas Open Meetings Act, but it's not in the spirit of conducting public business in the open. In this case, the negotiations are between two taxpayer-supported entities, so there's no need or reason for secrecy.

The two entities now appear to be on the right path of working in the open to determine a formula for assessing the cost. They also need to settle on the length of the contract.

This past week, a county commissioner suggested having a third party look at the usage and costs involved to determine the funding formula.

Hiring a third-party consultant would not be in the best use of taxpayer dollars. The best use of that time and money would be for a committee of city and county employees and officials to put their heads together and work out the funding formulas.

They already know the city and county's usage and needs. They are also familiar with the volunteers who help with rural calls, and they are familiar with area cities and counties that have similar agreements.

With the right research and a little time, such a committee could reach the right formula.

With the spirit of teamwork recently exhibited by city and county officials for the health and safety of all residents, we are certain the right formula and amounts will be agreed upon.

City and county residents need to talk to their elected officials and encourage such a committee be formed in the spirit of cooperation. Victoria always benefits when city and county officials work together.

This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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