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January 29, 2013

Yours, mine or ours?

ESD plans hit snag due to turf dispute

Athens — Requests by two Volunteer Fire Departments to set boundaries for proposed emergency services districts ran into a snag at the Henderson County Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday when a portion of their  boundary maps overlapped.

The Baxter Volunteer Fire Department is seeking to create ESD No. 7, while the Murchison VFD wants to form ESD No. 8. Tuesday’s agenda included an action item on whether to accept the proposed boundaries for ESD 7 and a vote on whether to set a public hearing concerning the boundaries on ESD 8. The disputed area is located near Lake Athens.

Commissioners took action to schedule a public hearing for February 26 concerning the Baxter area ESD boundaries. The court then tabled a vote on boundaries for ESD 8, hoping the departments can iron out the boundary agreement. Commissioners Court must approve the boundaries by March 1 to be in time to set a May election on the ESD proposal.

Supporters of each of the ESD proposals have gathered signatures from citizens in their coverage area. Precinct 4 Commissioner Ken Geeslin is concerned that some residents in the contested area may have signed one petition while others signed the competing document.

ESD elections have become common in the county in recent years because they allow the body to impose a tax to help fund volunteer fire departments keep up with the rising cost of equipment and insurance. There are now 24 fire departments in the county and five ESDs. County Judge Richard Sanders said the most recent ESD election was in November 2011 when voters narrowly defeated Emergency Services District No. 6 by a 49 to 41 count. The district was proposed to serve a section of the county south of Chandler, near Lake Palestine.   

In other action Tuesday, commissioners voted 4-1 to amend the county cell phone policy to allow elected officials a $50 stipend to apply toward their phone bill. Commissioners had discussed giving each person who uses a cell phone for county business an allowance to apply to their phone bill, but opted to still issue county phones to all but the elected office holders. Precinct 2 Commissioner Wade McKinney voted against the change.

Commissioners also voted to:

• approve adding the Friends of the Library to the list of organizations to which jurors can donate their pay;

• spend $30,440 to re-carpet the Clint Murchison Henderson County Library;

• authorize payment of bills in the amount of $90,276.26 for 2013 bills and

• authorize payment of bills in the amount of $57,780.95 for 2012 bills.

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