Cottonwood Shores council wants VFD to change its charter — or else

FROM STAFF REPORTS

COTTONWOOD SHORES — The Cottonwood Shores city council wants the Cottonwood Shores Volunteer Fire Department to change its charter or possibly lose the city’s contract for fire protection services.

“The council has come to the conclusion we needed them to revise their dissolution clause,” Mayor Donald Orr said. The council asked the VFD to make a change during its previous July 1 meeting, but Orr said the board didn’t take any action.

The VFD board is supposed to hold a special meeting 7 p.m. July 8 at the fire hall, 610 Birch Lane, to discuss the dissolution clause, the mayor added.

At the heart of the matter is where the VFD’s assets would go for some reason the department did dissolve. Under the department’s charter, the assets would go to Cottonwood Pride, a nonprofit organization that, according to its website, “promotes the care of the children and aged persons in Cottonwood Shores.”

Orr said if, for some reason, the VFD did dissolve, the charter should instead direct the assets to either the city or Burnet County.

“We believe that the county and the city has essentially paid for the assets the past 15 to 20 years, and if the department does dissolve, then those assets need to go back to those entities and not to a third party,” the mayor said. He also pointed out Cottonwood Pride doesn’t appear to provide firefighting services.

One of the main concerns for the council, the mayor said, is the close ties between the VFD and Cottonwood Pride boards. He pointed out several VFD board members are also on the Cottonwood Pride board.

Cottonwood Shores VFD Chief Heather Hyslop said the entire department membership, not just the board, will vote on the measure.

“Based on what the city is requesting and what we think is best, the only true viable options are the city or the county,” she said. “We’re leaning toward the county. It’s also what our attorney recommends.”

While the VFD can vote to change the dissolution clause, the city can also opt to contract with another fire department. The mayor said the council authorized city staff to begin discussing coverage options with other entities if the Cottonwood Shores VFD board doesn’t make the requested changes.

With the fire contract expiring at the end of September, the city needs some time to negotiate with other fire departments if necessary. Under the current contract, the city is paying Cottonwood Shores VFD $33,000 for its services.

“They came back and asked for a 30 percent raise (for the 2014-2015 fiscal year),” the mayor added.

Despite this, Orr said the city has never had problems with the firefighters themselves.

“Our issue has always been with the board, not the rank and file,” Orr said.

editor@thepicayune.com