City sends county proposal for emergency services

Amber Aldaco By Amber Aldaco

April 18, 2017 at 10:57 p.m.
Updated April 19, 2017 at midnight

The  newest ambulance in the Victoria Fire Department which is part of Station 5 in Victoria.

The newest ambulance in the Victoria Fire Department which is part of Station 5 in Victoria.   Kathleen Duncan for The Victoria Advocate

The Victoria City Council continued discussions about an interlocal emergency services agreement with the county and approved a counteroffer Tuesday to send to county commissioners.

For several weeks, the two government entities have attempted to renegotiate terms for an agreement that provides county residents with city fire and emergency medical services. Since 1999, the city has had a contract with the county to share the fire and emergency services. The city wants the county to pay 14.5 percent of the city's estimated $13.58 million emergency services budget for the next agreement. The 14.5 percent is the original contract price, but for several years the contract had been amended to allow the county to pay less.

"This has nothing to do with the quality of services they (the county) receive from our fire department - they think they are receiving outstanding service, and those gentlemen and ladies do a fabulous job," City Manager Charmelle Garrett told those attending the council meeting.

While the contract has been negotiated every two years, it was the hope of the county to have a six-year agreement.

County officials proposed two options to the city. The first option is a six-year amendment with the county offering to pay the city $1.685 million for the first three years and $1.835 million for the second half of the term. The second option is a two-year agreement with the county offering to pay the city $1.67 million each year for 2018 and 2019.

The county is also open to having a third-party consultant determine a price in the future.

Council members Jeff Bauknight and Tom Halepaska were not in favor of a six-year agreement.

"It's too long of a term for me, and I don't want to cancel the contract either," Bauknight said.

Six years is too long, Halepaska said, in terms of inflation and possible future purchases for fire and emergency services.

"I just don't want to be trapped into a six-year (agreement)," Halepaska said.

Bauknight also cited the deadline the city and county have to lock in agreement terms - May 1 - and voiced his disapproval of waiting until several weeks before the contract ends to negotiate terms with the city. Bauknight said county leaders were notified in December about the May 1 deadline.

"That's five months that we had to negotiate something out, and we didn't get there," Bauknight said.

Bauknight then made a proposal to send county leaders a two-year agreement. He proposed the county pay $1.685 million for the first year of the contract and $1.835 million for the second year of the contract. Those two numbers come out to about 13 percent of the city's budget. The City Council members approved that proposed amendment.

Bauknight was also in favor of a third-party consultant to determine future costs.

Garrett said she believes county leaders will want to continue negotiating the contract with the city.

Mayor Paul Polasek said city and county leaders will soon find common ground.

"We're here. We're working on it," Polasek said.

The proposed amendment will go to the Commissioners Court during its next meeting.

In other City Council business, a resolution for an interlocal agreement with Drainage District No. 3 was tabled.

The resolution listed duties for the district, including reimbursement to the city for the cost of mowing the drainage facilities.

The document also outlines a $600,000 contribution from the drainage district to the city's second phase of the Lone Tree Creek detention pond project. The drainage district will also have one project each year related to cleaning and restoring draining facilities. And the resolution also calls for the drainage district to help the city in the event of a hurricane or tornado.



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