At their regular meeting February 17, members of the Blanco County ESD #2 approved a resolution to adopt the 2014-2018 Strategic Plan developed by board member Darwin Labarthe with input from citizens, the Blanco Volunteer Ambulance Corps, and the Volunteer Fire Department. President Ann Hall read a letter from City Attorney Eddy Rogers, in which he commended the efforts of the ESD board in putting together the plan. “I look forward to it being fine-tuned,” said Rogers. Hall said that the board appreciates his input. “We especially appreciate the time he took to read the Strategic Plan and his positive comments,” she added. In discussion before the vote, Dr. Labarthe pointed out that the plan is “more visionary” than specific, and that any specific financial decisions will evolve from the general plan. VFD board President Harvey Lindeman questioned whether the tax base would support efforts required by the city to improve its ISO rating, which is currently an 8. VFD board member Jack Twilley contrasted short-term planning with long-term steps, which he said could result in lowering the insurance rating. Labarthe pointed out that lowering the ISO is a VFD goal, adding, “How can it be done, and how can the ESD help?” John Watson, BEMS board president, expressed concerns that the plan may not be flexible enough, that opportunities may pop up that the plan will prevent the ESD acting on. Labarthe countered, “Sometimes you don’t recognize an opportunity unless you know where it is you want to go.” Following discussion of how to evaluate the plan periodically, the board voted unanimously to approve the resolution.
ESD treasurer Mary Ann Millard reported assets in checking and savings of $496,455.94. The board voted to approve payments to the following: $32K to the VFD, $36K to EMS, $318 to Verizon (based on last month’s bill), and $2,047.68 to the Johnson City Bank.
VFD Fire Chief Ron Sallman reported an average response time in January of 12 minutes, 28 seconds, including one call that took 38 minutes because of icy conditions. The department made 21 calls, including five fire calls, 13 vehicle accidents, one good intent call, a hazardous conditions call, and one service call. The department now has 10 volunteers with three more pending. Jack Twilley reported on the department’s progress on meeting its objectives, including re-equipping trucks, increasing the department’s public presence through news articles, Facebook posts, which have resulted in 1100 Likes, and daily Tweets. Training of volunteers has included National Incident Management System (NIMS) certification, and CPR certification. The department has also been awarded $17,500 in grants through Texas A&M since September. Plans for the April 5 VFD fish fry fundraiser include static displays, a heliocopter demo, and entertainment. The number of cookers has been expanded to 10. Volunteers from Blanco High School are scheduled to help, and a number of guns will be auctioned off. Harvey Lindeman submitted a request to ESD for two sets of the Jaws of Life, which he said are lighter in weight and more effective in cutting into new cars than the two the department currently has, which are between ten and fifteen years old. The board voted to approve the purchase as well as to allow the department to dispose of unserviceable bunker gear and other equipment through salvage. Lindeman also reported that the audit for the department is underway, and that the bill sent by Johnson City for a mutual aid call has been dismissed now that the Blanco VFD gave mutual aid to Johnson City recently.
EMS Director Mike West reported $42,946 in income for January, $23K of that in patient revenue. Expenses totaled $54,886.67, including higher-than-usual payroll costs and medical supply purchases, resulting in a negative income of $11,940.18. EMS made 51 calls in January, including 11 walk-ups, 27 calls in the city, 24 in the county, one stand-by call, and six mutual aid calls. The department’s DHS license has been renewed for two years.
West announced that he is not resigning from EMS, as has been rumored, but that he has posted two captain positions on the department’s website—blancoems.org. The deadline for applications is February 25 at 4 p.m., and West hopes the new personnel will be in place by April 1, pending criminal background checks. West reported that the department’s audit has come back, and that the department received the highest rating. He requested reimbursement for recent expenses incurred, first for a commercial garage-door opener to replace the previous one which allowed the door to come down on top of an ambulance, causing minor damage. The second request was for improvements to the EMS bathrooms, including new showers, toilets, and flooring. West said the Boy Scouts will come in to paint the new bathrooms. A discussion of how to pay for the unbudgeted items followed, with Mary Ann Millard pointing out that since the building is technically owned by the ESD, the ESD has the responsibility as a landlord to keep the building in good condition. Ann Hall added that it is totally unacceptable for EMS personnel not to be able to shower when they come in from calls involving treating patients. The board voted unanimously to pay for the repairs from money left over from appraisal district revenue.
Finally, Dr. Labarthe asked to meet with EMS and VFD board presidents before the next meeting to begin aligning goals of the three entities. Ann Hall also presented board members with a list of due dates by month for the three organizations. The list will be voted on at the next meeting, March 17 at 6:30 p.m.