Texas Firefighters at Odds Over Finances

SAN ANTONIO --

Firefighters with South Bexar, Ata-Bexar and Sandy Oaks Volunteer Fire Departments are at odds with Emergency Services District No. 6 over their financial predicaments.

"In three weeks, if the ESD has not compensated what they owe use, we're going to have to stop paid fire protection," said David Crowley, South Bexar vice president.

He also said at least two of his fire trucks could be repossessed for non-payment.

The ESD funnels taxpayer funds to its volunteer departments to help pay for full-time paid firefighters.

However, in an e-mailed statement , Bexar County Commissioner Chico Rodriguez said emergency services districts were formed to supplement the budgets of volunteer fire departments, "not to provide 100 per cent of the department's operating expenses."

"It is incumbent upon fire departments to make sure they have enough funding to operate, just as they did before the creation of the emergency fire district," Rodriguez said.

Its chairman, Sylvia Ruiz Mendelsohn said ESD No. 6 had a $40,000 to $70,000 shortfall at the end of the fiscal year as a result of an ongoing lawsuit.

But she said the district expects to begin receiving ad valorem tax revenue next week, as well as a bridge loan.

She also said it is her "understanding" the fire trucks will not be repossessed.

"Unless we see it in writing, it's a fairy tale," Crowley said.

However, Rodriguez said he is disappointed "these first responders are engaging in a blame game to unnecessarily strike fear in the community."

Crowley said he and other volunteer firefighters are committed to the providing fire protection in South Bexar County.

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