Letter to the Editor: About the Ellis County Emergency Service District #3

My name is Jackie Dwayne Cate, and I have been a volunteer firefighter for 25 years with the Italy Fire Department. I have been employed with the City of Ennis as a Firefighter/Paramedic for the last 15 years. I am the President of the Emergency Service District #3 (ESD 3), and have served on this board for 14 years.

I was born and raised here; Italy is my home and this is where my kids will bury me.

I hope that after reading this, you as a voter will take this information and vote FOR the tax increase that the ESD#3 is asking you to approve. My intentions of this letter are to inform you, the voter, how the ESD#3 works.

The ESD started out as a Rural Fire Prevention District. The voters of Italy, which includes the City and the entire Italy school district, approved this in a 1984 election. The tax rate was set at 3 cents per 100 dollars valuation. We were the first fire district in Ellis County.

In 2003, the State of Texas required all Rural Fire Prevention Districts to convert into Emergency Services Districts as outlined in the State Health & Safety Code Section 775. If you want to read this it is available online. I will just cover some high points, An ESD is just like a City, but where the City offers water, sewer and streets, the ESD’s only goal is to provide fire and emergency medical services. The ESD can contract with outside agencies to provided fire and/or emergency medical service for its citizens. Currently the ESD#3 has chosen to allow East Texas EMS to provide the EMS services. The Fire services are provided through a contract with the organization known as the Italy Volunteer Fire Department and each individual volunteer fireman. The ESD provides the volunteers with the equipment so they can provide you as a citizen with fire and EMS first response service.

I will try to make it simple, the labor is free but the equipment and cost of maintaining it is not. The ESD collects a property tax, just like the City of Italy, only at a lower rate. Since 1984 the tax rate has remained the same. For 29 years, you have been provided a service at the same tax rate. Herein lies the problem. The ESD can no longer provide the same service at this rate. The cost of gasoline in 1984 was around 95 cents per gallon.

So, you see the ESD is totally separate from the City of Italy. We have our own meetings once a month just like the City of Italy does. Everyone is invited to attend the meetings. If this is approved, every dollar will be spent on Fire and EMS services. For those tax payers whose taxes are frozen this increase will not affect what you pay, but if it does not pass, it could impact the service you receive. The ESD#3 and the City of Italy do have a contract for service in which the ESD# 3 will provide the City of Italy with a fire inspector/fire marshal. The City of Italy, in return, will compensate the ESD in the sum of $18,000 per year. The City of Italy needs this, because per state law, daycares and schools are inspected yearly and new business must have a certificate of occupancy to open. The City of Italy could contract this out to another agency but it would not be cost effective for them. The City of Italy also pays insurance on vehicles and electricity to house the ESD equipment.

If you have any questions about the ESD please feel free to call me at: (214)356-4440.

Now, from my heart.

Why do they volunteer to do this job? Well to be honest some of the fireman are there because they think it’s cool to ride in a big red truck with the siren blaring and the horn blowing. That’s what I thought when I started 25 years ago at the age of 18, but sometime during your career you realize why you are really doing this.

John 15:13 reads, Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

All these fireman want to do is help their community. They give so much. Just ask a fireman’s wife or family how many times they have gotten up during mealtime or in the middle of the night to go help a stranger in need.

The ESD# 3’s goal is to provide these volunteers with updated equipment; to protect them while they protect you.

We need your help. Please vote FOR the tax increase.