At a special called meeting of the Blanco Volunteer Fire Department on July 18, a number of measures were voted on to ensure that the department is in compliance with Emergency Services District #2 rules and will be able to qualify for grants.
Three new board members were elected in addition to the current board, which consists of Al Turner, Vance Jenkins, Harvie Lindeman, and Lynn Hicks. Each of the candidates was introduced and spoke briefly about his background and credentials. Jack Twilley has a background of 22 years in military service followed by a career in commercial aviation. He has been in Blanco for 15 years and owns a business in Spring Branch. Doug Dowlearn is a graduate of Texas A&M with a degree in Aquaculture and has been involved with water his entire career. He worked for the Bexar County Public Works Department and developed some HAZMAT standards there. He has lived in Blanco for 18 years and is the owner of DAD Services, Inc., which designs septic systems, aerobic tanks, and leaching panels, and does test hole excavation. He says that he is “a big believer in networking.” Brian Reid, a Blanco firefighter for the past year, has lived in Blanco for three years and brings direct knowledge of how the department works. All three candidates were elected unanimously. Board president Lindeman asked Vance Jenkins, the former president, to serve as his vice-president, and Lynn Hicks was appointed as treasurer.
The second order of business was a discussion of proposed bylaws adapted from the Blanco Volunteer Ambulance Corps. Lindeman read through each section of the bylaws, adding explanations and clarifications as needed. In answer to a call for a vote on the bylaws, Brian Reid said that he felt rushed and would prefer to wait until the board could look at a “clean copy,” which did not have strikethroughs. He also objected to the fact that the current bylaws are more detailed. Jack Twilley responded that minimal bylaws are better and urged the board to go ahead and vote on the bylaws to bring the department into compliance with ESD requirements. “This (document) is legal, boilerplate, to protect this organization today,” he said. Lynn Hicks added that the intricacies of the current bylaws could be built into department procedures rather than being part of the bylaws themselves.
There was also a discussion of whether the treasurer should be paid, since Article V, Section 9 of the new bylaws states, “No loans or disbursements shall be made by BVFD to any officer.” The article was amended to add, “except as voted by the directors.” Article IV, Section 1 was also amended to read as follows: “The affairs of BVFD shall be managed by a Board of Directors . . . who reside within Emergency Services District #2.” Following those amendments, the bylaws were passed.
In addition, the budget for FY 2014 was passed after some discussion. The department anticipates income of $236,660, with $200,860 coming from the Taxing District and $27,500 from the annual fish fry. Additional income is anticipated from donations and grants. Expenses for the year are anticipated as $236,660, including $200,000 for replacement of an aging brush truck and a rescue truck. The department has applied for a $173K grant from the Texas Forest Service but will not know if they get it until September. The forest service will also pay toward workman’s compensation.
Lynn Hicks was appointed interim chief by the board; however he stressed that the department should search for an accredited fire chief with certain credentials, including accreditation from the Texas Commission of Fire Protection and the State Firefighters and Fire Marshals’ Association. He said the ideal chief would have completed Firefighter 1 and 2 training as well as Fire Officer 1 and 2 certification, and Safety Officer 1 and 2 training. One of the firefighters present said that he has several of these certifications but still would not feel qualified as chief—that experience is very important as well. Lindeman asked if it would be “pie in the sky” to expect a candidate who was interested to have all these credentials. Hicks responded that the board could hire someone with some of the credentials and give him or her a time frame to get the rest. Al Turner commented that it would be similar to the predicament of the Blanco Police Department, who trains new officers only to have them move on more lucrative jobs in larger cities.
Finally, Hicks discussed the Insurance Standards Office rating of Blanco, an 8, and that of the surrounding community, which is a 10. He said he has received complaints from residents who have had trouble getting fire insurance because of the low rating. "Residents could save several hundred dollars on their homeowner policies if the rating were higher," (#1 being the highest), he said.. He presented proposals from a professional engineering firm which would analyze what needs to be done to improve the city’s ISO rating at a cost of $35K. “The fire department needs a baseline to see what needs to be done,” he said. Brian Reid responded that the study needs to be done through the city, not the fire department. Jack Twilley asked if the city and the fire department could get the requirements and do some of the leg work themselves. Vance Jenkins responded, “Lynn has already done a lot,” and Hicks responded, “I have the paperwork to do the internal stuff.” One of the requirements is that people must live within five miles of a fire department. Al Turner suggested that someone make a presentation to city council to get the city onboard. Ultimately, said Hicks, the ESD would have to fund the study. As there was no other business, the meeting was adjourned.