AUSTIN (KXAN) — Since bringing up the idea in 2016 of the Austin Fire Department taking over firefighting duties at two Travis County ESD No. 4 fire stations, the city and county are poised to come to an agreement.
On Thursday, the Austin City Council is expected to vote on a service agreement to compensate the city for providing services for ESD 4. Currently, ESD 4 is made up of five “islands’ in an arc around the northern edges of the city. ESD 4 operates two fire stations located on the far westside and eastside.
ESD 4 commissioners approached the city about the possible changes after they determined that geography and annexation changes have resulted in their inability to provide fire services to a majority of their territory. For the past year, the various agencies involved determined if this proposal were to move forward, AFD would have to add 30 firefighters to staff the two ESD 4 stations. The ESD 4 stations would also remain ESD 4 property but the city would own the actual equipment.
ESD 4 would not be disbanded, though. The county district would remain in place to collect taxes to pay for the firefighter salaries and other operational costs. According to a city memo, the taxes collected by ESD 4 is more than enough to pay for the service of $4.2 million per year.
A city memo states ESD 4 firefighters have already started on their background checks and certification verifications in order to become AFD firefighters. Of the 32 initial ESD 4 firefighters, only five did not meet the minimum qualifications related to service time and two have withdrawn from the process. If the agreement is approved, the ESD 4 firefighters who make it through evaluations will start the merger training academy on July 24, which is expected to last two months.
All ESD 4 firefighters will become Austin employees on Oct. 1, which is the same day the city will begin responding to calls for service in ESD 4’s jurisdiction.