CORINTH — Corinth City Council members said it might be wise to begin preparing for the likelihood of two communities parting from the Lake Cities Fire Department, which could cost Corinth millions of dollars.
During a City Council work session Thursday, Corinth council members discussed ways to reach an agreement with Lake Dallas and Hickory Creek regarding the renewal of an interlocal contract.
On Monday, Lake Dallas and Hickory Creek sent a letter to Corinth officials with points of demands for change in the new proposed contract created by Corinth officials.
Though Corinth council members agreed to at least two of the items, a couple of others on the list were nicknamed “show stoppers” because of their potential effects on Corinth’s budget and the Lake Cities Fire Department’s services.
The Lake Cities communities asked to have a vehicle replacement program removed from the budget and requested to cut $600,000 from the $4.6 million in the agreement’s budget.
Mayor Paul Ruggiere told the council he doesn’t see any way the agreement could move forward with those two demands.
The vehicle replacement program is necessary for the department’s operation and safety, he said.
Council members said cutting the replacement program would be like asking garbage men to use a pickup to do their work instead of a proper vehicle.
Ruggiere also said if the $600,000 is cut, then it’s probable that Corinth would have to make up the difference in its budget.
“That means we would have to cut the budgets of our departments and that could have a negative effect on the entire city,” he said.
Place 5 council member Bruce Hanson said Corinth developed the vehicle replacement program to allow the other Lake Cities to contribute to the costs of the vehicle replacement.
“When we drafted this program, we did so with the intent to lower costs of operation,” he said. “Their demands will increase our costs, and that’s not OK.”
Lake Dallas and Hickory Creek have both threatened to decline a contract renewal and start up their own department.
The mayors of both communities said the contract proposed by Corinth is fiscally irresponsible and overpriced.
Ruggiere said that if the communities do decide to leave, then Corinth would have to find a way to come up with about $1.3 million to keep the department running at its current level.
“We would lose about 10,000 people that we service, but unless we find it necessary [to cut], I would like to keep the department as is, so we can continue our high quality services,” he said. “That would then result in us absorbing the costs of the entire budget.”
Officials expect Shady Shores to remain on the contract no matter the outcome.
“Depending on what happens, we will adjust the agreement according for the town,” said Jim Berzina, Corinth’s interim city manager.
Five years ago, 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.
Lake Dallas and Hickory Creek officials said they would like to reach some sort of agreement soon to prepare for the possibility of planning and creating their own fire department.
Ruggiere also said he wants Corinth to prepare for the loss of the two Lake Cities communities.