County residents to decide on creation of ESD May 6
Milam County voters will have a very important decision to make on May 6 about the future of medical emergency care in the county – the creation of an Emergency Services District for the county.
A group of Milam County citizens banded together in 2022 in hopes of creating a countywide emergency services district and the item is now ready for public approval.
The group, comprised of Milano Fire Chief Kain Dodd, Amanda Huner from Thorndale, Warren Matous from Rockdale, Dustin Thomas from Cameron, and Derrellene Zbikowski from Davilla, have formed The EMS Advisory Committee, Milam County.
“Since the spring of 2021 our EMS system has been pushed beyond its limits,” Dodd said last summer. “The term Level Zero has become a term we hear all too often.”
Level Zero means that there are no ambulances available in the county.
“Whether you are a citizen calling 911 for a medical emergency or a volunteer fire department that is dispatched to assist with a medical call, the first question is always, do we have an ambulance available to respond and if so how long is their response time,” Dodd said. “A 35-55 minute response time for an ambulance is unacceptable. This is at no fault of the ambulance crews. These individuals tirelessly work 48-hour shifts at a time with very little rest, if any at all, and I applaud them for that.”
Dodd said he would like to say that the issues are the fault of AMR or the Milam County Coalition (Milam County, City of Cameron, and the City of Rockdale) but he can’t place blame there either.
“The truth is both members of the agreement have fallen short at some point in time,” he said. “Otherwise, we would not be in the situation that we are in. We must start working towards a sustainable and reliable EMS system. We need an Emergency Services District to oversee the EMS system in our county.”
The county added an additional emergency vehicle last summer, but that vehicle can’t transport patients.
Milam County Commissioners accepted the petition and placed the creation of the ESD on the ballot for May 6.
If the election passes and the ESD is created, the Commissioners Court will appoint five board members to serve on the ESD board.
Dodd said an ESD has the ability to fund all aspects of emergency services but in this case it will just be for EMS.
An ESD generates its funding from an AD Valorem Tax. The Texas constitution sets this tax limit at $0.10 per $100 worth of appraised property value. This does NOT mean the ESD would tax the maximum of .10 cents. The ESD will have to set a budget and tax rate within Truth-in-Taxation laws. Once the tax rate is set you do not have to worry about it creeping up each year until it reaches $0.10. The only way the tax rate can change is by voter approval. The ESD will have the same tax exemptions as the county. Including the over 65 or disabled person homestead exemptions and over 65 homestead ceilings.
“You will find that at its maximum the ESD is significantly lower than all the taxes levied in the county,” Dodd said. “The highest is Milano ISD at $1.38 per $100 of property value. Again the ESD value is at its maximum. This is not what will be the approved tax rate. I promise you I do not want to pay one cent more in taxes but if we can have a reliable EMS system for less than what most pay monthly for Netflix then I’ll support this ESD in every way I can.”
Dodd said that if the ESD is created it will assume responsibility for the AMR contract and PHI air medical contract. It will have the opportunity to add a fourth ground ambulance, add additional EMS staffing, and remodel and/or build new EMS stations for the well-deserving crews.
“This ESD will give the citizens the opportunity to govern and oversee our own EMS system,” he said. “We will no longer have to rely on a for-profit ambulance company or the coalition to make these decisions. We need a board whose budget is strictly dedicated to assure the citizens of Milam County receive the best level of EMS care available in their time of need. We must end these outrageous response times. We must create an ESD.”
Early voting for the May election begins on April 24 and runs through May 2 at the Milam County Clerk’s Office, Buckholts Community Center, American Legion Carlyle Post #358 in Rockdale, and Thorndale Veterans Memorial Hall. Election day is May 6. Voting locations for that day are Milam County Clerk’s Office, Cameron Housing Authority, Buckholts Community Center, American Legion Carlyle Post in Rockdale, Thorndale Veterans Memorial Hall, Milano VFD and Gause VFD.