Texas City Looks to Offset Expenses by Cutting Emergency Department Funds

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Texas City Looks to Offset Expenses by Cutting Emergency Department Funds

News Jul 17, 2015

July 17--EDNA -- A major purchase of now-junk electronic water meters may be an underlying cause for the city of Edna to need to cut the fire department's budget.

"We as a city council -- we screwed up," District 1 Councilman Doug Kelley told an overflowing council chamber Thursday evening.

The council met Thursday to discuss its relationship with Emergency Service District No. 3 -- a voter-approved taxing entity that was created to allow the city to maintain its paid fire department.

City Manager Don Doering said the electronic meters cost the city about $500,000.

Now, the meters are breaking, he said, adding the city is spending thousands of dollars a month to repair them.

The company the city bought the meters from has since gone bankrupt, he said.

Residents raised many questions about how money was being spent and why, despite the city being under budget, would there be a need to make cuts to the fire department.

District 3 Councilwoman Maxine Price said the council is seeing expenses for the coming year that need to be taken care of.

A leaking sewer system that will cost the city more than $1 million to fix is one of those expenses.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality recently found the city noncompliant because its water flow was exceeding treatment, Kelley said.

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The city pays about a $300,000 deficit a year for the fire and EMS department -- money Doering said is needed elsewhere.

"We have roads that have potholes, buildings that need repair and city services that need to be provided," he said.

The city's contract with the emergency service district is up for renewal in September.

Price, who gave a heart-felt plea to the audience to give the city time to develop ideas on how to move forward, said the discussion to cut funding for the fire department isn't personal, but instead simply about the money.

"It wasn't poor planning; it's just that everything happened at once," she said. "I love the fire department. I love EMS, but we took an oath to look after the city -- we cannot go bankrupt.

"This didn't just start. This has been going on for years."

However, residents in attendance stood firm that cutting the fire department budget is not a measure they would support, some stating they'd prefer a tax increase.

"I think the fire department is the worst place to make that cut," Patty Villarreal said. "If we keep our fire department, we've won."

No decisions were made Tuesday night. The council meets again Aug. 6.

Copyright 2015 - Victoria Advocate, Texas

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Victoria Advocate, Texas
Bianca Montes
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