Lake Dallas and Hickory Creek council members may vote Thursday night on whether or not they will renew five-year interlocal agreements with Corinth for Lake Cities Fire Department services.
This week, Corinth, Lake Dallas and Hickory Creek officials began working on an agreement to fund the fire department.
The current agreement expires Sept. 30, and Lake Dallas and Hickory Creek officials have asked Corinth to make cuts to its proposed $4.6 million budget. Officials from both communities have criticized Corinth’s original contract, calling it bloated.
Depending on Corinth’s final numbers, Lake Dallas and Hickory Creek may choose not to renew the agreement. The two communities would then either join in creating a new fire department or each could create its own department after the current agreement expires.
The two communities will both hold council meetings at 7 p.m. Thursday, and each will consider the Lake Cities Fire Department interlocal agreement.
“Our decisions will be based off what Corinth brings back to us,” Hickory Creek Mayor John Smith said. “We’ve had some verbal discussions, but we would like to see it all in writing. And based on that, we’ll vote.”
Last week, Lake Dallas Mayor Tony Marino and Smith sent a letter to Corinth’s Interim City Manager Jim Berzina with a list of changes they would like to see in the contract.
Two of the biggest demands, according to Corinth officials, included eliminating a $1.4 million vehicle replacement program and cutting $600,000 from the contract’s $4.6 million base budget.
Corinth officials discussed the matter in a workshop Thursday, and Mayor Paul Ruggiere told council members those changes would put a financial strain on Corinth’s city budget.
He told council members that the discussions probably would not move forward if the other communities insisted on eliminating the vehicle replacement program and reducing the budget.
Ruggiere said he expected that if Corinth gave into the demands, the city would be forced to make up the difference.
Marino said his city is willing to pay whatever is necessary to fund the operation and maintenance of the fire department as long as the budget is lean.
Berzina said it may be possible to reduce the budget, but not by much. He and Ruggiere both said the numbers Corinth city staff calculated for the budget are needed to run the department.
In 2007, Corinth obtained control of the fire department after each Lake Cities community decided to eliminate the department’s governing board in exchange for a five-year fixed contract with Corinth.
If the Lake Dallas and Hickory Creek councils decide not to renew the agreement, Corinth officials will begin working on a contingency plan to ensure fire services aren’t disrupted for their city or Shady Shores, which has already renewed its agreement.
Keeping the system intact will probably be Corinth’s priority if the other communities exit, Ruggiere said, and the plan could possibly include raising the property tax rate for residents, costing an additional $50 a year.
“Our cities have fundamentally different views as to how this fire department should be funded and operated. I am not sure where the discussion will go from here, so if they decide to leave, we have to be prepared to operate without those two cities,” Ruggiere said.
JOHN HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882. His e-mail address is email@example.com .