Hays County emergency officials moved one step closer to the possibility of calling an election for the creation of a ninth Emergency Service District.
While boundaries for the potential ESD are still being finalized, San Marcos Hays County EMS Chief David Smith said nearly all entities have supported ESD 9’s creation.
ESD 9 is being created to service residents who do not live within an existing ESD in Hays County.
One of the major hurdles that remains for ESD 9 is setting service boundaries for neighborhoods west of Hugo Road and Ranch Road 12 in Wimberley. Smith said those areas have been historically served by Wimberley Fire and Rescue (ESD 7).
In late May, the Hays County Commissioner’s Court closed its public hearing on the creation of ESD 9, but delayed the vote to call an election. The reason was to finalize ESD service boundaries in the Wimberley area.
Hays County has until August to call an election for November 8.
Over the past several months, Smith said officials from the new ESD 9 and ESD 7 have met to redraw boundaries in that area.
“That took us a couple of months,” Smith said. He added ESD 9 is waiting for the finalization of boundary maps and legal descriptions before taking the measure back to the Commissioner’s Court.
But Smith said the boundaries are not “hardline” and that all entities “just try to send the closes ambulances” to help emergency situations.
“When we talk about district lines, it’s just where the ambulance always comes from … if we get a call, we go,” Smith said. “This is a funding and financial responsibility issue, but when a call comes in, we send the appropriate response.”
While the district waits for boundaries to be set, Smith said ESD 9 has received support from a majority of Hays County entities, including Dripping Springs, Kyle, Buda and Niederwald.
SMHCEMS is waiting for the city of Austin to give its opinion on ESD 9, as they have portions of the extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) between Buda and Kyle.
Smith, who has advocated for the creation of ESD 9 for ten years, said the ability for residents to voice their opinions on the creation of the district is imperative. He said the district could help generate revenue and subsidize service to areas in Hays County not within an ESD.
Smith said the district could offset current healthcare funding challenges faced by EMS.
“It’s a way for us to address the growth of the I-35 corridor responsibly,” Smith said.
In the meantime, ESD 7 will petition residents west of Hugo Road on whether they wish to be brought into the district’s boundaries. Smith said if enough residents are in favor of the petition, ESD 7 commissioners could then call an election in November to annex the area into its boundaries.
Hays County Precinct No. 3 Commissioner Will Conley said on May 16 there were parts of his precinct that have been historically served by ESD 7, but were in “white zones.”
Conley was concerned about notifying citizens and ensuring transparency and clarity when informing affected residents.
“It’s important that we get it right, because if we don’t, we will end up with an underserved area,” Hays County Judge Bert Cobb said.