Maps made available for comment

Published on Tuesday, 10 June 2014 23:27 - Written by ADAM RUSSELL

Map options, which would decide representation lines for emergency service board members, were open for public comment Tuesday evening.

There was little open discussion about the maps but there were opinions shared about how two proposed maps could affect the board’s current makeup.

Three maps for single-member districts to represent Emergency Services Districts Nos. 1 and 2 were presented for public comment after monthslong discussions between attorneys handling the mapping process and countywide fire officials.

The two five-member boards would be elected to four-year terms. The plan is to approve maps for the two districts and add the 10 positions to November ballots.

County Judge Joel Baker said the commissioners court would likely consider the maps at the court’s next meeting on Tuesday.

ESD No. 1 includes Lindale Fire Department and collected less than 6 cents per $100 valuation, or $639,000, in 2012.

ESD No. 2 includes Arp, Bullard, Chapel Hill, Dixie, Flint-Gresham, Jackson Heights, Noonday, Red Springs, Troup, Whitehouse and Winona volunteer fire departments and collected more than $4 million from taxpayers in 2012 based on a property tax rate of 8.46 cents per $100 valuation.

There are two options for commissioners to consider for ESD No. 2.

The maps are drawn proportionally based on voting-age population.

Map No. 1 is based closely on already existing county precinct lines. Map No. 2 is based on input from current board members and fire personnel around the county.

Map No. 1 would place at least three current members — board president Randy Melton, Bill Bellenfant and Robert Dear — in the same district. Map No. 2 would put Melton against Dear.

Dear has been a critical voice among ESD No. 2 board members, especially regarding departments going into Cherokee County.

Baker said there are many factors and opinions surrounding the maps. He said the majority of responses from individual departments preferred Map No. 1 because it divided the precincts along established lines and individual department coverage areas.

“We’re going to take the advice from (the firm that drew the maps) but we’re open to discussing the plans,” he said.

Melton hasn’t stated his preference publicly or privately to commissioners, he said, but added “Bill (Bellenfant) and Keith (Youngblood, who may also be included within the same precinct) are quality individuals and have the same desire to make sure we are good stewards of taxpayer money while at the same time are providing fire protection for residents.”



Former ESD No. 2 board member Sharon Guthrie said Map No. 2 was “gerrymandered” at the request of district fire officials looking to maintain the current membership minus Dear.

“That won’t fly,” she said.

Baker said the court’s decision would be made based on public opinion, input from consultants and what represents the best map to represent countywide voters through this decade.