The city of Ovilla and the Emergency Service District No. 2 board are at an impasse that will impact fire protection for residents outside the city limits of Ovilla if an agreement is not reached by midnight tonight.
The ESD board has requested that the city hire three full-time firefighters. They also want the city to have volunteers to staff the station for 14 hours a day, which would require two volunteers working each day. The board feels that these changes would improve response times.
The city has made a counter proposal is to have available one full-time firefighter, who would be on site 24 hours per day. Assistance would come from a part-time firefighter or from volunteers during evenings and some weekend shifts.
Board president Ray Reed notified Midlothian Fire Chief David Schrodt, Ovilla Mayor Bill Vansyckle and ESD board members Danny Green, Danny Long, Tom Manning, and Gary Ratliff in an email sent at 3:59 p.m. Wednesday that “since we have been unable to execute a new contract for fiscal year 2011-2012, I am requesting that you (Ovilla Fire Department) advise your dispatchers not to dispatch (to rural) Ovilla” after the contract expires on Friday. Until the contract is resolved the Midlothian Fire Department will be handling all calls in the ESD. Ovilla will be responding to calls within the city only.
“During the daytime hours the response time is fine but after hours there is no one at the station. What happens is that the Midlothian ambulance gets there before anyone from Ovilla shows up. Ovilla only has a small part of the ESD that they designated to be first responder into,” Reed said.
“We had brought this up months ago,” he added. “We started talking about the problems we identified; the main problem was the long response times in the evening and nighttime hours. We brought a proposal to hire three full-time firefighters. They didn’t want to do that. So we asked them to give us some other proposals. We have gone back and fourth for three months.”
Vansyckle said the city has been in discussion with Reed on finalizing the contract.
The proposed changes in the contract were presented to Reed by Vansyckle on Wednesday. Reed informed Vansyckle that the proposed changes would be presented to the ESD board at the regularly scheduled Oct. 17 meeting.
“I presented the changes (Reed) asked about and requested, and he said he still felt that this would not satisfy the board, but would be presented to the board on Oct. 17. Meanwhile he would not rescind the order to dispatch Ovilla,” Vansyckle said. “You (Reed) have the legal right to extend the contract by having a meeting in 72 hours. Just put in an extension until we can resolve this contract but you have chosen not to. You have put at risk the lives and property of the people of the ESD district.”
Reed said that calling for a special meeting to extend the existing contract is not an option right now because a 72-hour notice is required and that three board members are out of town this week.
Vansyckle has instructed the Ovilla Fire Department to respond to calls received from dispatch even if located out in the ESD.
Ovilla Fire Chief Donnie Pickard said to abruptly cancel the contract as of Oct. 1 is not fair to the residents and it is also not fair to the city of Midlothian who will now have to stretch their resources even further.
“Our mayor has told us that if we are called we are going to respond until we get this worked out. I think that responding is the only right thing to do,” Pickard said.
“We are not going to let someone die out there on the side of the road if we can help.”
Pickard said actions do have consequences and people need to step back and look at the whole picture before taking any harsh action that could be regretted later.
County Commissioner for Pct. 4 Ron Brown is confident these two professional organizations, the city and the ESD, will be able to work out an agreement. Brown hopes that fire protection will not be impacted during this time.
The city receives $110,000 annually from the ESD in order to cover an area that includes the entire Midlothian School District, which excludes the cities of Midlothian and Ovilla. Since January the Ovilla Fire Department has responded to 141 calls in the ESD.
The item to consider approving the inter-local cooperation agreement for fire protection first responder services with the ESD has been posted for the 7 p.m. Oct. 3 Ovilla City Council meeting. At the Sept. 26 meeting this item was not listed for discussion.
The Ovilla Fire Department is staffed by 41 firefighters and one full-time chief/EMT-P, 15 part-time firefighters and of those 13 are firefighters/EMT-P’s and two are firefighters/ EMT-B’s. There are also 25 volunteers with a variety of experience levels and certifications. Ovilla City Hall is located at 105 S. Cocker Hill Road.
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