The December 16 meeting of Blanco Emergency Services District #2 was called to order by President Ann Hall, with all directors present except secretary Becky Greathouse. The November minutes were approved as corrected, with a check from the appraisal district for the month of October reallocated for taxes collected in October. Treasurer Mary Ann Millard reported current assets of $45429.27 through December 11. The ESD collected $243,810.81 in taxes in November.
Blanco Ambulance Corps Director Mike West reported that, through grants, AED’s have been installed at five locations in Blanco—the lobby of the Blanco Police Department, City Hall, the Old Blanco County Courthouse, Gem of The Hills Senior Center, and the Stripes station on south Highway 281. He also reported income of $36,846.21 for the month of November, including patient revenues of $18,546.21. Total expenses for the month totaled $42,618.10, including a higher-than-normal expenditure for medical supplies--$2,787.74. West explained that the department needed to replenish the stock on some items, and that some had passed their expiration dates. The corps also made two PEC payments (October and November) and two employee health insurance payments. Monthly call volume included 55 dispatched calls, one public assist, one stand-by, and seven mutual aid calls. All three ambulances are in service at this time with no major repair bills for November, just routine maintenance. Online training is in progress as well as mandatory monthly continuing education. A CPR class will be held Friday, January, 13.
Immediate needs for the corps include extrication suits to protect personnel working to remove victims from vehicles at the scene of a crash and extrication training. Upcoming events include a Hill Country Heartbeat meeting in January, an EMS Open House in March, and a planning meeting in April for the annual Lavender Festival Burger Burn. West also included safety tips for the public in his report. Residents should have their address displayed legibly at the entrance to their property. To avoid delays by emergency vehicles which cannot get through locked gates, residents should give the correct code to the Blanco Sheriff’s Department. The information will not be shared with anyone else.
A discussion followed debating the value of printed reports from the service providers as opposed to paper reports, with Jack Twilley suggesting that a computer drop box be utilized for everyone to read reports without their being printed out. The ESD will pursue that option.
Blanco Volunteer Fire Department Board of Directors president Harvey Lindeman reported that the fire department wrote checks for $14,318.38 and had negative income of $12,970 for the month of November. Chief Ron Sallman said the department had received a check for $3800; and Lindeman said there had been a few donations, which are deposited in a fire department donation fund at the Blanco National Bank.
In his monthly run report, Chief Sallman said that the department had 24 calls in November, including 14 motor vehicle accidents, one vehicle call, one hazmat call, two authorized burn-ban calls, one good intent call, a grass fire call, and a mutual aid call. He said he attended a Kinder Morgan pipeline meeting dealing with the three pipelines which run across Blanco County north of Johnson City. The largest, owned by Kinder Morgan, is a 24-inch natural gas pipe. There is also a 10-inch Phillips natural gas line, and a third, which is a crude-oil pipeline which runs from west Texas to Houston. He said the Kinder Morgan line has a cut-off valve in Blanco County that is monitored in Houston. If it were to burst, a white fog would be released which would settle along the ground because natural gas is heavier than air. He said that Blanco County fire departments were there to discuss what would happen in the event of a break in the line. Sallman said the main issue is third-party digging by people who do not call the 811 number prior to digging. Johnson City has trailers with equipment provided by Kinder Morgan to deal with a leak. In the event of a leak, the best advice is to approach the leak upwind, since the gas is heavier than air, and to call 911.
Chief Sallman also reported that he and Robert Stuart have met with people at Texas A&M to learn about applying for grants. To date, the department has received two grants, one for $8400 from Texas A&M Forest Service, and one for $8800. He brought the two acceptance letters to be signed by Harvey Lindeman. One is for wild land gear, and the other for bunker gear. Once the gear is purchased, the receipts are sent to A&M, which will reimburse the department.
In addition, Chief Sallman reported that, with the help of “Dirt” Dworaczyk, all the fire trucks have gone to Seymour’s Garage to be evaluated “bumper to bumper.” He said, “A couple of them have some pretty big maintenance issues, but a couple of them aren’t too bad.” One of the brush trucks has suspension and brake issues, due to driving over rough terrain. He said that of January 1, 2014, the Blanco VFD will begin submitting damage, equipment, and fuel cost reports along with other departments to the state. When the state total exceeds $39million, FEMA will reimburse the departments. He concluded, “Robert and I are really working and doing a ton of research to work these grants in ways to absorb some of these costs.” Other plans for the department include doing a class for fire and EMS personnel to get a Class B driver’s license as part of working together as one emergency response team.
Finally, Sallman informed ESD about a Helping Hands program through Texas A&M in which EMS and fire departments can donate their used and surplus equipment to another department, or they can sign the title over to A&M, which will post a list of available equipment, starting January 1, 2014. As well, the Department of Defense has a pool of used vehicles, which the Blanco VFD could apply for online. The process takes one year, after which the receiving department has six months to get the vehicle painted and in service. Sallman’s idea is that the vehicles, mostly tanker trucks, could be staged around the district to be ready for use immediately if a fire breaks out nearby.
Harvey Lindeman announced that a new volunteer, Steve Elliott, has joined the fire department. “He will be a huge benefit to us,” said Sallman, adding that Elliott has fire and EMS certification and is already working for the department. “He kind of fits the mold of what we want for cross-training,” he said.
Sallman said that A&M will be sending out a document predicting wildfires for 2014 all over the state of Texas. He said that he will e-mail the report to the ESD.
The ESD voted to pay the central appraisal district bill half the yearly fee of $19,535. The other bills which the district will pay are as follows: $17k to the VFD, $18k to the EMS, and $2,047.58 to the Johnson City Bank. Ann Hall asked the service providers to submit a form for their monthly payments.
Dirt Dworaczyk and Mike West reported on the ESD’s recent request to the city to donate land at the corner of Jones and Blanco Avenues for a joint fire-EMS station. Dirt said he concluded that city attorney Eddy Rogers “runs the city—not the mayor, not the city council.” He continued that Rogers’ attitude was that the city’s land is valuable, and that the ESD should take care of its business with no help from the city. Mike West said,”The attorney offered an opinion about fire department and EMS expenses when he has not attended a single meeting. I think the EMS and the fire department need to set him straight on that. He is there for legal advice and not to provide his opinion on our finances. He has no clue what it takes to run our departments because he hasn’t attended them (meetings.)” Dirt summarized, “We all had the same idea—let’s move south, out of the city limits, and see how it goes from there.” Lindeman said that at one point Rogers looked at the mayor and said, “Do we own that property?” “I find that very telling,” he continued. “He’s resisting giving it to us and he didn’t even know they own it?” Ann Hall asked commissioner Paul Granburg if it is possible for a county entity to transfer property to another entity, and he responded that the county has leased land for a communications tower south of town from the city for $1 a year, so he knows it can be done. Mary Ann Millard said the city attorney referred to the ESD’s budget increase from $200k to $500k without realizing that it took years for the district to get its budget to that point. Ann Hall said, “My personal opinion is that I’m really opposed to doing much with the city because I think that every step of the way, you’re going to meet this sort of thing.” West also relayed that the city had said at city council that the fire department would have to start paying for water. Ann Hall said she was told by city secretary Bobbie Mowery that the city cannot give away water, and that various entities, such as the courthouse and the fire department, will have to start paying for water. However, grants may be available to allow the city to give the water away. Lynn Hicks said that the city’s contract with the fire department for the property on which the current fire station sits specifies that the department provides fire protection for the city and gets free water. Hall suggested that the fire board get in touch with the city in regard to that contract. Other unfinished business included an update on the writing of a strategic plan for the ESD by Darwin Labarthe. He plans to have it finished and distributed at the January 13 meeting.
Under New Business, the paperwork has been submitted to the city to transfer the tone-out frequency to the ESD. The transfer needs to be complete before the license expires in April.
Mike West addressed the re-zoning of the Weirich Concrete Plant property to light industrial. The new plant will do light manufacturing involving fiberglass, which he says can produce noxious fumes if the ventilation system is not adequate. He referred to a fiberglass boat plant in Kilgore, Texas, which produces pervasive fumes. The first public hearing will be held January 6 at city hall, and a second hearing will be held January 14. He said that the ESD does not necessarily want to protest, just to ask questions and suggested submitting a list of questions. He said that a lot of sick people come to the EMS station, and that they don’t need to be smelling a foul smell. “This may be a great thing, but we’re just curious.” Ann Hall said it may be too confusing for the city to explain that the property the EMS station is on is owned by the ESD. She suggested that Mike West and John Watson go to the public hearing with their questions. Dirt asked where the plant would be located on the land, and West responded that it will be at the north end, next to the houses on the adjacent property. Labarthe asked what the standards are for that type of manufacturing, and how the new plant will meet them. Dirt suggested a call to TCEQ. The question was raised as to whether the Planning and Zoning Commission had voted on the zoning change, and Mary Ann Millard stated that it was not mentioned at the last city council meeting, at which it was announced that P&Z had not been able to conduct business at their last meeting because of the lack of a quorum. The re-zoning letter sent to EMS said that P&Z would meet January 6.
In final business, the ESD voted to publish the street address of the ESD as the Blanco Ambulance Corps. The next meeting of the ESD was changed to January 13, a week earlier than usual, to allow Darwin Labarthe to present his strategic plan.