Bunker Hill opts to stay with VFD through 2019
The city of Bunker Hill Village is slated to remain with the Village Fire Department through December 2019, but where it will get its emergency services after that is still uncertain.
After studies, demonstration runs and much discussion on the fire department’s response times to Bunker Hill, the westernmost of the six Memorial Villages the department serves, Bunker Hill’s City Council opted to approve only the 2019 VFD operating budget in September but voted down approving funds for renovations at the fire station.
Each of the Villages needed to approve the budget by Sept 30. When Bunker Hill failed to approve the entire budget, the Village Fire Commission told Bunker Hill to give notice whether it wanted to carry services with the VFD through Dec. 31, 2018, or Dec. 31, 2019.
As expected by officials in the other Villages, because of the time it would take start alternative services, Bunker Hill opted to keep services through 2019.
While Bunker Hill Fire Commissioner Derry Essary said he hopes to reach an agreement and ultimately remain with the VFD, he said the city is making contingency plans.
“We have retained the services of an architectural firm in designing a new emergency rescue station on the west side of the VFD service area,” Essary said. “It will be a new building on a site that has yet to be selected.”
Essary said the city has at least five sites it is considering for the new station and that the location will depend on which can provide the best service to the more western and southern areas of the VFD service area.
Also in preparation, Essary said Bunker Hill has hired a fire suppression and EMS (emergency medical service) consultant to assist with getting proper equipment, staffing and an operational plan. He said he has confidence that the plan should be operational by Jan. 1, 2020, but added he would like it to be through the VFD.
In a statement obtained by the Houston Chronicle, Bunker Hill Mayor Jay Williams said the proposed $3.5-million capital budget for the renovations was “wholly deficient” in that it lacked planning for renovating the station or building a new one and an overall budget and timelines for the whole project and the work required. The statement also said there were no plans for a temporary relocation during construction.
However, Hunters Creek Village Mayor Jim Pappas produced documents and said he was upset to see the statement in print because architectural plans, cost estimates and a payment schedule for the renovations were indeed available.
Pappas said Williams’ comments flied in the face of three years of hard work and planning, that people in the other Memorial Villages “had dotted all their i’s, crossing all their t’s” spelling out detailed plans to renovate the fire station.
Brian Muecke is the mayor of Hedwig Village and said although the other Villages had tried to dissuade them, Bunker Hill’s council made its unanimous decision to not approve the entire fire department budget while aware of the impending fallout.
“After Bunker Hill announced its intentions in June to leave the VFD, leadership from throughout the Memorial Villages implored them to consider the consequences of that action,” Muecke said. “We did everything we could over the past three months to keep their citizens underneath the VFD’s veil of protection. Unfortunately, Bunker Hill’s leadership did not respond to our repeated and extensive efforts.”
Muecke said the actions and words from Bunker Hill’s leadership are currently not matching up. He hopes to engage with them in the future when, he said, they can be more helpful.
“Five weeks ago, the current elected leadership of Bunker Hill knowingly and deliberately took unanimous action to leave the Village Fire Department. Now they are saying they are hopeful to be a member of VFD again,” Muecke said. “The contradiction between their actions and words make progress toward that end difficult. I look forward to sitting down with Bunker Hill at a time when its elected leadership can engage in a more thoughtful and constructive manner.”
Essary said there has always been a sense of cooperation amongst the Memorial Villages, citing examples years back when then Bunker Hill Mayor Bill Marshall backed Hunter Creek’s request to put in a police substation at the Houston Racquet Club or when Bunker Hill let Piney Point Village utilize its council chamber as a municipal court.
“During all of these cooperative efforts, there were various policy disputes between individual Villages; however, in the end if we could agree on an issue that was important to one of our members, somehow we came together,” Essary said. “I sincerely hope that spirit still exists.”