Commissioners to consider new ESD maps

Published on Monday, 16 June 2014 22:32 - Written by Staff Reports

County commissioners will consider adopting election district boundaries for Emergency Services Districts Nos. 1 and 2 today at 9:30 a.m. inside the Courthouse Annex Building, 200 E. Ferguson St. in Tyler.

Court members are considering three maps presented at a town-hall meeting last week for public comment after months-long discussions between attorneys handling the mapping process and countywide fire officials. The maps are drawn proportionally based on voting-age population.

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.

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

Two maps have been proposed in ESD No. 2, which 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.

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 based on their home addresses. Map No. 2 would put Melton against Dear.

Smith County will become the first county in the state making emergency service board positions elected. Oversight and board appointment powers rest with county commissioners courts by state law.

A local law was passed during the 2013 legislative session making the five-member boards elected bodies.

Supporters said members of a governmental body that taxes residents should be answerable via election. Opponents said making the boards elected positions cost taxpayers and reduce the pool of residents willing to serve.