ESD 8 terminates Briggs VFD contract

By Savanna Gregg

Staff Writer

The Highlander

Many unanswered questions are circulating through the Briggs community in light of a recent decision by the Board of Emergency Services Commissioners for Burnet County ESD No. 8 to terminate its contract with the Briggs Volunteer Fire Department effective March 1.

In a statement issued by the ESD No. 8, “all operations by Briggs VFD within the District will cease effective March 1, 2019, and all Briggs VFD assets that have been paid for by the District...will be returned to the District at that time.”

ESD No. 8 plans to assign the District's emergency services to Oakalla VFD following the dismantling of Briggs VFD.

“The Board believes this change in service will benefit the entire District by enhancing the level of service across the community,” the release stated.

Briggs VFD Fire Chief Melinda Wessels-Renfro stated the VFD was not enlightened on the reasoning behind the ESD's decision.

“We are at a loss,” Wessels-Renfro said. “I have not been able to get a clear-cut reason why they decided not to renew, and the letter said it is in the interest of the community, but we are not sure where they are coming up with that decision.”

Wessels-Renfro, who lives on the far side of Briggs, 17 miles from the Oakalla VFD, shared concerns about the time a service call would take for personnel to reach a scene in an emergency.

“I would have a quicker response from Bertram than Oakalla,” Wessels-Renfro said. “I don't feel like that is looking out for the community.”

The decision also raised medical concerns for Wessels-Renfro, in terms of medically trained personnel on the two teams.

“Oakalla VFD has zero medically trained members, while Briggs has eight active medically trained members,” Wessels-Renfro added. “We will be going down to zero medically trained members in a community of elderly people, where about 50% of the calls we receive are medical.”

Efforts to verify the information regarding personnel training as well as further details about the decision with representatives for the ESD were unsuccessful.

The decision to terminate the contract between ESD No. 8 and Briggs VFD raises many concerns and questions throughout the District as it faces an unknown future, and Wessels-Renfro and her staff are wishing for more answers.

“It is not fair to the citizens that five ESD members, three from Oakalla and two from Briggs, get to choose what would happen to a service area of 1500 people.”

The public is invited to join Briggs community members and County officials at a town hall meeting to discuss the situation and ask questions about the changes in the District Monday, Feb. 11 at 6:00 p.m. at Briggs Community Center.

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