JUDSON, TX (KLTV) - An East Texas volunteer fire department is looking for more funding by becoming an emergency services district, or ESD.
The Judson Metro Volunteer Fire Department is an all-volunteer department that operates primarily on donations. Becoming an ESD means the department would be tax funded.
“It is a tax increase, but it’s a 10 pennies on the $100 valuation. So to break that down simply if it’s a $100,000 home or property value that’s $100 a year and then so on after that for each $100,000," said Chris Jackson, the fire chief for Judson Metro VFD. "Essentially, what we’re trying to do is increase our funding. We operate on about $30,000 to $40,000 a year. Unfortunately, that’s just not always enough to provide the most adequate protection that we want to.”
Jackson said the estimate to provide adequate fire protection would be about $300,000.
The increased funding would allow Judson Metro VFD to build more stations, buy more equipment, increase manpower and add first responder/EMS personnel.
Jackson said those benefits will translate to reduced response times because there would be personnel at the station ready to respond to calls. He said the average response times for volunteer fire departments is 12 to 15 minutes.
Judson Metro VFD relies heavily on mutual aid from surrounding fire departments, including the Longview Fire Department and the West Harrison, Diana and East Mountain volunteer fire departments. Judson Metro operates with one tanker, one engine, three brush trucks and about 28 volunteers.
“And because of our limited resources, we call them a lot to come help us,” Jackson said. “The problems that we run into is for every fire we have, we always have to call for help because we don’t have our own equipment to take care of our own community."
If approved, Judson Metro would become Gregg County ESD 3. The Sabine and Elderville volunteer fire departments already have ESD status.
"Both of those departments do have compensated staff on duty. Because of their compensated staff they were able to cut their call times in half if not more,” Jackson said.
The cost to taxpayers could be offset by lower home insurance costs because it could mean a lower ISO insurance rating -- which is based on risk.
“Right now we get around a rating of a 6.9 and then a 10 is as if there is no fire department in existence so we’re looking at trying to bring that down," he said.
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