Thank you for publishing two articles regarding the proposed Grimes County ESD #2. We wish to offer some clarifications and corrections related to these articles.
In the article headlined “Commissioners set public hearing for ESD #2” David Tullos is stated to have advised the Court that the cities of Anderson, Todd Mission and Plantersville have passed Resolutions against the creation of the ESD #2. In reality, these resolutions were not passed in the specific time window stated by law (THSC 775.014(a) (b)) and are of no practical relevance. The net effect of such resolutions, when passed according to the law, is to ban the voters of the municipality the opportunity to vote for or against the ESD. If the City Council votes to consent to the creation of the ESD within the City Limits, then the voters get to decide whether they want the ESD to be created inside the City. If the majority of voters in a city vote against the ESD, then the city is excluded from the ESD, by decision of the voters, rather than by the City Council alone. (THSC 775.014) In the article headlined “City, VFDs share thoughts about ESD,” the Whitehall VFD Fire Chief states, “It’s [the local fire department] no longer volunteer…All of the assets of the volunteer fire departments revert to the ESD.” In reality, nothing in Texas law permits the arbitrary confiscation of volunteer fire department assets, and examples abound among the more than 300 ESD’s in Texas where VFD’s have retained their autonomy, their ownership of assets, and their ability to determine training, response, management, conduct fund raisers and retain the funds from such fund raisers, etc. VFD’s and ESD’s can negotiate protections into their individual contracts. Grimes County ESD #1 is an example, where the ESD contracts with the Iola VFD for services and the VFD remains independent.
The Fire Chief further states that the “magic number” for a functioning ESD is approximately 125,000-150,000 people. This is not supported by observation, many counties have ESDs that serve far fewer people. Here in our area, Robertson County and San Jacinto County are both smaller in population than Grimes County, population 29,268, and have highly successful county-wide ESDs. Again, Grimes County ESD#1 successfully serves only a small portion of Grimes County.
The Whitehall Chief also states that an “ESD is virtually impossible to eliminate once established.” In reality, Texas law (THSC 775.072) provides the process for dissolution which is similar to the process of formation.
The Anderson VFD Chief says a community- based document opposing the proposed ESD#2 garnered the appropriate signatures and was presented to county commissioners. We congratulate him on his efforts to take this matter to the people. However, we, the petitioners for ESD#2, are asking this matter be allowed to be voted on by the citizens of Grimes County. We simply wish for the decision to be in the citizen’s hands.
Richard C. Gremillion