Grimes County Commissioners Court held a special meeting Monday, Aug. 19, and commissioners unanimously approved a motion for County Judge Joe Fauth to work with the county attorney to change the language of the contracts with the county’s volunteer fire departments (VFD). A second agenda item, determining the duties and compensation for the Grimes County Fire Marshal, was tabled. This meeting was a follow-up to Wednesday’s Regular meeting in which commissioners voted not to renew the agreement with the Grimes County Firefighters Association (GCFFA) and to negotiate with each individual VFD.
Judge Joe Fauth began the meeting by recapping his concerns expressed during Wednesday’s court related to IRS filings, lack of accountability, unresponsiveness to a recent grant opportunity, the management of vehicles toned out for fires, and friction over boundaries between fire departments.
Fauth said, “I have documentation that shows on the IRS annual information - and it’s not a situation that all departments are out of compliance, but it’s a situation that all fire departments are not in compliance.”
In response to comments about “double dipping,” Io-la VFD Chief Morris Barney explained that voters in Iola ISD in Pct. 1 approved the Emergency Services District tax to purchase new or better equipment. At the tim e the tax was put into place, the VFDs were receiving no funds from Grimes County other than run reimbursements.
Addressing “in fighting” between fire departments, Barney said that the purpose of the GCFFA was “to keep it at a minimum” and he attributed what had happened to “growing pains” in response to two new fire departments in the county.
Anderson Fire Chief Mike Kimich said removal of fire district boundaries would remove the VFDs eligibility to apply for grants from the Texas Forest Service.
Keith Gilbert, Assistant Administrative Chief of Whitehall VFD advised that meetings had already begun amongst Whitehall, Todd Mission and Shiro to discuss mutual training together, and “the reason we are doing that is because it has not been happening. The GCFFA has failed that.”
Gilbert requested an investigation of the dispatch disparity, proposed eliminating the run reimbursement and suggested the county assure compliance by paying the stipend monthly. Gilbert along with Todd Mission’s Fire Chief Cassandra Malone supported the employment of David Lilly as the coordinator between the VFDs.