OVILLA – For the past 26 years the Ovilla Fire Department has been working with the area Emergency Service District (ESD), but unless both the city of Ovilla and ESD can find a tangible solution to ESD’s recent new requests then the contract might not be renewed.
That would mean the city would not be getting the annual $110,000 that ESD pays Ovilla in order to cover an area that includes the entire Midlothian School District — excluding the cities of Midlothian and Ovilla, according to Ovilla Fire Chief Donnie Pickard.
“ESD No. 2 would like for the city of Ovilla to hire three full-time employees, that’s 24 hours a day. Also they would like for the city to have volunteers staff the station 14 hours per day, seven days a week so there would be two here at the station,” says Pickard.
The cost for the city would be very high and Pickard says the money paid annually now goes to provide fire service to all the areas the city covers and it would not cover the additional cost the city would incur if it were forced to hire more full-time employees.
“We not only have to pay salaries we have to cover the electricity, gas, truck fuel, uniforms, phone service, internet, insurance, equipment upkeep, office supplies and as you know, many more things that it takes to run a business,” Pickard adds.
In a discussion concerning the contract renewal at an Ovilla City Council meeting earlier this month City Administrator Randy Whiteman said, “What they are requesting we have never had.”
Pickard said in that same meeting that about 33 percent of the calls the city of Ovilla receives at the fire department are for the ESD service area.
“We have the coverage areas divided into two response areas,” Pickard explains. “The OOPA (Ovilla Outside Response Area) and the MOPA (Midlothian Outside Protective Area) and from Jan. 1 of this year to Sept. 19, we have made 129 calls in the OOPA and 12 calls in the MOPA.”
Pickard says response time is one of the motivators as to the new contract discussions.
“In an e-mail received from ESD No. 2 President Ray Reed, he outlined three problems. One was unacceptably long response times during nighttime and evening hours when no one is at the station, two is decreased number of volunteers who regularly respond to alarms and three is an insufficient number of EMS certified personal. This is all that I know,” Pickard said, adding that “in the OOPA, for example, the 24-hour average response time is nine minutes and 22 seconds.”
In regard to the new contract, Pickard said it is a big step for Ovilla and a costly one.
“It will also be an added expense for the city from now on,” Pickard said. “The ESD No. 2 board approved a contract on Sept. 19 and it now has to go to the Ovilla City Council for its consideration.
“I feel we have tried to work a solution out,” Pickard said. “I must say I feel we provide the best service that we can with a combination response team and we have done this for 26 years. If this cannot be worked out, I would like to say thanks for the honor to provide a good service to the areas we have covered for the past 26 years.”
Currently the Ovilla Fire Department has 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.