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La Vernia residents hear District 3 EMS proposal

La Vernia residents hear District 3 EMS proposal
"If you don’t want taxes, vote against; if you want service, weigh the costs," Wilson County Emergency Services District No. 3 (District 3 EMS) Attorney Ken Campbell said at a Feb. 5 town-hall meeting on the district, explaining annexation of area previously served by La Vernia EMS.

“Whether you’re for or against, get your neighbors involved. We don’t want to hold an election, if you don’t want this.”

Wilson County Emergency Services District No. 3 (District 3 EMS) Attorney Ken Campbell made this point Feb. 5 during a town-hall meeting at La Vernia City Hall.

The meeting, attended by more than 40 interested citizens, was the second of three public meetings on a proposal to expand District 3 EMS coverage to include the area previously served by La Vernia EMS.

District 3 commissioners will conduct a public hearing Feb. 15 in the Sutherland Springs Community Building and decide whether to hold a referendum on the proposed annexation.

The proposal would increase District 3 EMS coverage area from 284 square miles, which encompasses Stockdale and Sutherland Springs, to about 350 square miles, including La Vernia.

Campbell explained that both current District 3 EMS taxpayers and residents of the proposed additional area must approve the annexation in order for it to go into effect.

Residents of the La Vernia EMS area will also vote whether to assume the debt of District 3 EMS. Campbell said these voters can vote for annexation and against accepting the debt.

“We’ll be able to pay the old debt,” Campbell said.

District 3 EMS Director David Rice presented “positives” that would come with annexation, emphasizing the qualifications of the staff, their ability to respond more rapidly than volunteers, and the advantage of having three ambulances to cover the area.

The district’s budget for the first year projects a property-tax rate of 10 cents per $100 valuation, which would decrease to 7 cents per $100 valuation by the third year, according to Rice.

He noted that the community’s alternatives to annexation are to continue with La Vernia EMS -- “if that’s on the table” -- contract with a private service, or petition to create a new emergency services district, District 4 EMS.

A new district would require at least $40,000 in start-up costs and would take time to set up, he said.

S.S. Water Supply Corp. General Manager Herb Williams said he had circulated a petition to establish a new district, but now supports joining District 3.

La Vernia Mayor Robert Gregory said he sees no move toward a new district and no move for a countywide district.

“The best deal I see is what you have here,” said former Emergency Services District No. 1 President Mike Hanson. “If you want service, you’re going to have to be willing to pay for it.”

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