As fire chief for Brazos VFD I feel the need to set the record straight both with what ESD No. 1 board member Ricky Jones stated, and regarding this newspaper’s incomplete representation of his comments (“A Fair Share?” published Saturday, April 1).
You reported that Brazos responded to only 13 fire calls last year. However, a more comprehensive understanding of the facts would reveal that upwards of 50 percent more calls were incorrectly dispatched to other departments despite being clearly within our territory. Further, we responded to additional calls that were not dispatched to us in support of surrounding departments – despite never being contacted. It is worth noting that the overall number of fire calls county wide was low because of the wet weather and weather patterns. Thirteen may sound like a low number but everyone’s fire calls were reduced last year.
Mr. Jones seems to think the absence of debt is a bad thing. Brazos VFD prides ourselves on our dedicated and hard working volunteers, our strategic planning for equipment purchases, and our fiscal responsibility. Fire apparatus are obviously expensive and require careful planning and consideration when purchasing. We make careful investments in equipment that are force multipliers.
After analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of our territory, we choose to invest in equipment that increases our ability to handle the range of situations with available personnel. We have a policy of saving rather than accruing debt, in contrast to departments like Lone Camp. We laboriously saved for five years in order to purchase our 2012 Freightliner, 3,500-gallon capacity water tender which came in at a cost of $140,000. We paid cash – because it was the responsible thing to do with taxpayer money.
While current board members have the gall to raise questions regarding our trustworthiness (which is slanderous) we have a proven track record of saving and purchase – as evidenced by our public financial records. While departments all around us went into debt purchasing whatever equipment they desired, we restrained our impulses – and continue to restrain them and instead save responsibly. You’re welcome. Consider, if every department embraced debt, and a spend thrift attitude, it puts both individual departments at risk of insolvency, and threatens the entire ESD board at large.
While Brazos VFD is eagerly saving for a new fire house, and has confirmed that information to the ESD No. 1 board, at no point has the board requested plans or a timeline for a new fire house from our VFD. It’s interesting to note that fire departments are not required to provide such proof of intent or project progress. So while Mr. Jones seemed remarkably concerned about Brazos business, the ESD board does not have a standard practice of monitoring such items.
You reported Mr. Jones used an interesting phrase, as he described the funding of Brazos. He said it was “not taking any steps forward, we are just feeding the beast.” I wonder that such comment did not cause you, an editor, to seek comment from the “beast” in question. Rather than “sitting on money and not moving,” had your newspaper or Mr. Jones cared to inquire you would have learned we have multiple RFPs outstanding for equipment upgrades which will enhance our capabilities even further.
To the residents of the Brazos VFD territory, ravenous debt and blatant mismanagement of money define the current county wide systems in place. Indeed, our VFD will sleep peacefully with our impeccable bookkeeping and without need for the apparently commonplace bail outs the ESD has provided for the real “beasts” of this county.
Consider the irony of a board member who attacks a VFD for maintaining a cash reserve while some other departments are living hand to mouth; and the very board he serves on practices financial conservation and in fact holds back funds each year. Perhaps your readers would be interested in the witch hunt Mr. Jones is perpetuating on a VFD which is trying to represent the best interest of the tax payers and indeed the entire emergency system.
Eric Flavin, chief, Brazos VFD