Meeting to discuss City of Tool Volunteer Fire Department closure
By David Webb
TOOL–Eleven years of dissension between two volunteer fire departments operating in the city could erupt during a public hearing before the Tool City Council at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 1.
The council set the public hearing about the Tool Volunteer Fire Department during an April 17 meeting because the fire chief and all but one of the volunteer firefighters resigned recently. That leaves the Henderson County Emergency Service District No. 4 as the sole fire department in Tool.
Mayor Tamra Brickey said any resident with a fire or medical emergency should call 9-1-1 rather than City Hall because the Tool Volunteer Fire Department would be unable to respond. “We only have one fireman left, and he can’t do it.”
Jeana Williams, a former firefighter and supporter of the Tool Volunteer Fire Department, attempted to address the council about what she called an environment of “hostility” in the current city administration causing the mass resignations. Brickey silenced her, telling Williams to “say it at the public hearing.”
After the council meeting, Williams said that all of the resigned firefighters would return to work if they felt welcome. She said firefighters wanted to work with the mayor, and they felt Brickey had an agenda against them. She promised to be at the public hearing to speak if she is available that date.
Brickey denied being hostile to the Tool Volunteer Fire Department. The mayor said a representative of the Tool Volunteer Fire Department told her she was unwelcome in the building. “As far as any hostile atmosphere, I haven’t even been over there,” she said.
Brickey attributed the bad feelings by the firefighters to her former role as vice-president of ESD No. 4 Board of Directors during six years of service on the governing body. She noted she successfully challenged and unseated former mayor A.J. “Red” Phillips and current city council candidate in the May 10 election, who is the sold remaining Tool Volunteer Fire Department member.
“It’s all political,” she said.
About five years ago, a former council attempted to withdraw from ESD No. 4 but a court judgment prevented the action in a 2010 lawsuit. City residents had raised complaints, none of which were formally registered with the county. Council members agreed to abide by the final judgment issued by Judge Carter Tarrance, who denied the city’s withdrawal of tax support from the ESD.
Tool residents established ESD No.4 in a 2003 election, and the Tool Volunteer Fire Department formed. The two departments worked together in emergencies, but are separate entities. The city fire department receives funds from both the City of Tool and ESD No. 4, which is funded by a 3-cent ad-valorem tax.
Seven residents are competing for three council seats in the May 10 election so the voting majority could change. In addition to Phillips, current council members Fran Sonka and volunteer firefighter Rick Williams are running for re-election. Other candidates are Randy Whitehurst, Cindy Clounch, Mike Barr and Kathryn Pinnell.
The upcoming election led the council to table agenda items for the new council to consider, including whether to approve a new contract for copy machine services and amending the city retirement plan for employees.
In other action, the council:
• tabled consideration of hiring a new dispatcher to replace Amanda Liles who resigned until after an advertisement is placed in the newspaper.
• opened a police seizure fund account at Citizens State Bank and closed a security and police fund account at First National Bank in Seven Points.
• raised the minimum building permit fee to $50 to cover the cost of inspections.
• approved pursuing 2014-15 Texas Community Development Block Grant funds for improvements in either Cedar Creek Park Center or Paradise Bay Mobile. The neighborhood will be selected when the grant application is made.
• scheduled a meeting for 5 p.m. May 1 to consider revising the city’s personnel policy.
• discussed the need for an ordinance governing the use of golf carts on city streets, including setting a minimum age limit to prohibit children from driving carts on public roads.