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New service districts face decisions

January 22, 2019

Recently appointed boards for two new emergency services districts in Pearland’s extraterritorial jurisdiction face key decisions including what services the districts should contract for and who should provide them.

“Now our planning really starts,” said Bill Brummett, commissioner on the board of Emergency Services District No. 4, which is along the southern edge of Pearland. “We have to find emergency service vendors — fire and ambulance — to provide our ESD with service.”

During the organization efforts, the city of Pearland is continuing to provide fire and ambulance services to that district and to Emergency Services District No. 5, which is in the Silverlake area between Texas 288 and Cullen Boulevard. But the city has indicated that after a certain point, it will discontinue emergency services to those areas.

Pearland had annexed the land now in the districts in 2017 but then withdrew the annexations last year after a backlash from residents and a written reprimand from Brazoria County District Attorney Jeri Yenne, who said the city’s procedures had not been lawful. Residents in the two areas voted in November to create the service districts, and county commissioners court appointed members for the boards.

“Currently, the city of Pearland has said, ‘As long as you’re working on something, we will provide you with service,’ which is really incredibly gracious of them,” Brummett said. “For years, they’ve been providing service to our area expecting that eventually they would be able to annex us, and now that’s not going to happen. I don’t blame them. No city would want to provide service to an area knowing they would never be able to annex them.”

Now that the boards are established, the districts must decide specifics on what services they want provided and what they want in a provider, go out for bids and eventually, decide on a tax rate, which can be up to 10 cents per $100 valuation.

Dave Ferguson, executive director of Brazoria County Emergency Services District No. 3, which was established in 2005 in the Manvel area, said people within his district understand the complexity of what ESDs 4 and 5 are facing.

“Finding the vendors is most likely going to be the easiest part,” he said. “What they’ll really need to next do is sit down and figure out exactly what it is they want from a provider, then go out and find the fire and ambulance services who can give them what they want for the best price.”

Pearland has calculated that neither proposed district could garner enough revenue to cover costs for contracting the services from Pearland. The city would not be obligated to agree to a contract.

“We’re not sure exactly what direction we’re going to go yet,” Brummett said. “It’s possible to have more than one provider in more than one area of the ETJ; so that might be an option we look into as well.”

Brummett hopes that by August, Brazoria County should be able to provide the boards with information to use in setting tax rates and budgets.

Law enforcement services likely will be handled by the county sheriff’s office.

“We’re trying to do the best job we can for our citizens,” Brummett said. “We want emergency services that are efficient and effective and will be able to handle any emergency in the ESD no matter what, and we also have to look around for where we’re going to get the most bang for our buck. It’s a long process, but we’re moving on it.”

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