Lake Dallas and Hickory Creek officials have expressed discontent with Corinth officials regarding a Lake Cities Fire Department service agreement renewal, which includes a $1.3 million vehicle replacement program.
Corinth officials will address the issue at 7 p.m. Thursday during a City Council meeting, where they expect officials and residents from neighboring cities to voice concerns or support for the agreement’s renewal.
In recent days, Corinth Mayor Paul Ruggiere said he feels like discussions have driven the Lake Cities communities further away from reaching an agreement.
“The issue about how much each city should put up for the vehicle replacement program has always been a sticking point for the four cities,” Ruggiere said. “There’s always a disagreement of how much should be put into the program.”
The replacement program calls for the four Lake Cities communities to contribute a combined $200,000 each of the first two years with a combined increase of $50,000 each of the next three years until the fund is receiving $350,000 per year.
Lake Dallas Mayor Tony Marino said he’s hopeful an arrangement can be made but added that he believes the costs for the replacement program are unnecessary.
“We just want something that’s financially responsible and acceptable,” he said. “We don’t think we need to put up the additional funds to meet our needs.”
Lake Cities Fire Department was once an independent, nonprofit organization, serving Corinth, Lake Dallas, Hickory Creek and Shady Shores.
In 2007, Corinth gained control of the department after the Lake Cities communities decided to eliminate the department’s governing board in exchange for a five-year fixed contract.
“After that happened, a lot of the cost fell back on us, including the costs for vehicle replacement,” Ruggiere said. “Those costs weren’t in the original contract, but we decided to pay for it ourselves because we needed it.”
Since 2007, Corinth has invested about $1.5 million in a fire truck, two ambulances, a few defibrillators and additional vehicle and fire equipment purchases, Ruggiere said.
“Those upgrades were necessary to provide our responders with the tools they needed to protect our citizens,” he said. “Over the years we have provided a quality service to our customers, those being the other cities, and they have demanded to pay less for what they’re getting.”
On Monday, Marino and Hickory Creek Mayor John Smith sent a letter to Corinth officials, stating they hope to reach an agreement by Friday on the requested changes to the proposed contract.
Marino and Smith seek to slash Corinth’s estimated $4.6 million agreement by about $600,000, and they also want the vehicle replacement program eliminated.
“It’s a needed expense,” Ruggiere said. “The vehicles will wear down and it’s only fair that they help contribute to the costs of replacement program.”
However, Lake Dallas and Hickory Creek officials said they believe the $4 million base is enough to cover the costs, including vehicle replacement.
In the letter to Corinth, Smith and Marino stated that if the issues aren’t resolved, then Lake Dallas and Hickory Creek will seek to end their relationships with Corinth.
Shady Shores Mayor Jerry Williams said he wants to take a wait-and-see approach on the agreement before passing judgment.
He said he wants his community to know that fire protection services will not be interrupted, but that there may be modifications depending on what happens with Lake Dallas and Hickory Creek. But he said he guarantees that Shady Shores will have protection.
The contract among the four communities expires Sept. 30.