“The biggest thing is, they won!” said Wilson County Emergency Services District No. 1 (La Vernia-area ESD) President Quentin Kiolbassa Nov. 10. “Congratulations, Kicaster and Sutherland Springs!”
Kiolbassa was addressing the ESD board during its regular meeting, updating the members on the results of the Nov. 8 election, in which county voters
overwhelmingly approved to bring the Kicaster and Sutherland Springs areas into the La Vernia-area ESD for fire-protection services.
Once the results of the election are canvassed and approved by the ESD board, the homes and businesses in those areas will be served officially by the La Vernia Volunteer Fire Department (VFD), the contracted department of the La Vernia-area ESD. The areas had been served by the La Vernia department in a mutual-aid capacity since the closure of the Kicaster and Sutherland Springs volunteer fire departments. The Sutherland Springs department closed in 2014; the Kicaster department folded in December 2015.
For Roberta Ensor, treasurer of the La Vernia-area ESD, the annexation relieves her mind of worry.
“So all our neighbors now have fire protection,” she said during the board meeting last Thursday.
The election was the culmination of months of work by the emergency services district. Voters in Kicaster and Sutherland Springs needed to approve the annexation, and voters already served by the district also needed to approve the proposals. Failure on either side would have meant no annexation.
Voters faced two propositions:
•Adding the Kicaster or Sutherland Springs area to the ESD
•The Kicaster or Sutherland Springs areas to assume a proportionate share of the ESD’s outstanding debts and taxes.
In Sutherland Springs, the latter item failed by only three votes (according to the unofficial results from election night).
Ensor queried why the Sutherland Springs voters opposed sharing a portion of the debt.
“La Vernia taxpayers have been paying to cover Sutherland Springs ... buying engines and brush trucks, ... turnout gear, plus training ...,” Ensor said. “... By voting no, a person is basically saying ‘I want you to provide us with services, but I don’t want to pay for the apparatus providing the services.’”
This will not impede annexation of Sutherland Springs into the La Vernia-area ESD, according to board Vice President George Jones.
“It just means an accounting issue until the little amount of debt we have is paid off,” he said Nov. 10.
“This was the culmination of a lot of work by a lot of people,” Jones said. “Everybody did a little bit to pull this thing together.”
“I am glad that this election’s over!” Kiolbassa said, before thanking the board members for their efforts.
Ensor plans to resign from the board at the end of December, to focus on her health.
“I couldn’t do that with a clear conscience until Sutherland Springs and Kicaster had fire services covering them,” she said.
Canvassing of the votes is set for Nov. 17.