Navasota, County Battling Contract Negotiations for Fire Service Compensation

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Jason Katkoski | "It's happening all over the state..."

It's a discussion that city leaders say has been long overdue.

"All of the citizens in the city limits pay a city tax and a county tax and our tax pays for the fire department,” explained Navasota City Manager Brad Stafford.

Budgets are being stretched thin as a demand for fire protection services continues to swell.

“All we're trying to do is get compensated for fighting fires outside the city limit," Stafford added.

According to city leaders -- over the years the city of Navasota has continued absorbing its own general fund to provide fire protection services outside the city limits. Last year the department ran 700 calls; 160 or almost a quarter of those calls were out in the county. Each year the county reimburses the city with a payment of roughly $45,000. But Navasota Fire Chief Jason Katkoski says that doesn't even come close to the actual cost of $126,000 for those calls.

The 2012-2013 budget for the Navasota Fire Department is $459,000, the county’s current budget for all eight fire departments is $370,000. Bedias, Anderson, Iola, Plantersville-Stoneham, Richards, Shiro and Whitehall Volunteer Fire are also under the Navasota Fire Department’s operational ‘umbrella.’

“It all adds up, especially when you’re talking about fuel these days. The cost to make those calls doesn’t include the wear and tear we put on the engines when we respond to those rural calls,” said Katkoski.

Talk of canceling service outside the city limits was brought up during a city council meeting.

“That’s something that we don’t even want to think about,” said Katkoski. “No, we’re not currently being paid to go out there and respond to calls, but as good stewards of the community, we’re going to respond and I’m confident we will come to an agreement.”

“You don't want to be just sitting out there counting on your bucket of water,” added Stafford. “As a homeowner you want a well-trained, well-equipped fire department that arrives at the scene if you need them."

Mitchell Kroll and his family live less than five miles outside the city limit of Navasota. He says quick response times during any emergency gives not only his family, but his neighbors a peace of mind.

“"We have good local volunteer fire departments and they're great,” said Grimes County resident Mitchell Kroll. “The city has a paid staff and being in their response area is kind of a benefit to us so I think the citizen should get involved.”

The negotiations for an inter-local agreement are still in the works which means the county has not yet reimbursed the Navasota Fire Department for calls that have occurred since the beginning of the current fiscal year.

“I'm sure they {the citizen} understand that there is a cost and we all have to pay for services, whatever that service may be,” explained Stafford. “The people outside the city have police services outside the sheriff's office and they're paying for it in taxes; so if they want fire protection then they're going to have to pay for that.”