By JONATHAN ZWEYGARDT
The Ellis County Commission approved the creation of two new positions within Rural Fire Company 5 at Monday’s commission meeting.
According to Fire Chief Darin Myers, Company 5, based in Hays, is the largest company within the Ellis County Fire Department with 25 firefighters. There are also a number of interested applicants, but the department has put a hold on accepting applications until they can form a better leadership structure.
“We are having somewhat of an anomaly compared to the rest of the United States, where we have an increasing number of volunteers, within Ellis County, wanting to be on the department,” Myers said. “With that good problem to have, we need to have a proper hierarchy, leadership management above them.”
Currently, there are two captains among the six appointed positions within Company 5 giving the company a ratio of approximately one captain to 10 firefighters, according to Myers.
The addition of one captain and one lieutenant will reduce that ratio to one to six.
Myers said the extra captain will create three squads which make it easier to delegate duties, prepare training assignments and other responsibilities.
The addition also increases the probability of an officer responding on the first emergency unit that arrives, according to Myers.
The commission voted to approve the promotion of Jared Shelton to Fire Captain, John Vaughn to Fire Lieutenant and Trevor Stipe to Fire Lieutenant.
Each January the commission appoints fire company officers.
Myers said they have seen an increase in firefighters in all six fire companies within Ellis County.
In other business, Hays City Manager Toby Dougherty updated the commission on the city’s policy for lot size within the extraterritorial jurisdiction, or 3-mile zone.
Last week, the city commission adopted a policy that states developments within the 3-mile zone must be at least two acres. Two acres also coincides with state statute that requires any property outside city limits on septic tank must be two acres, according to Environmental Sanitarian Karen Purvis.
The lots can be bigger, but Dougherty said the developments will still need to be planned so that if the city grows in that area it can fit within the city.
The city would oversee the zoning and platting of the development, but the county would be responsible for code enforcement. The city also does not provide electric, gas or water infrastructure for any development that is not contiguous developments.
Commissioner Marcy McClelland said she was glad to see that the city commission decided on the minimum of two acres.
Commission Chair Barb Wasinger said, “I don’t see anything happening in the near future because of the litigation going on.”
The county continues to be locked in a lawsuit with developer Mary Alice Unrein after the commission failed to pass the final plat of a purposed subdivision south of Hays. The vote was 1-1 with Commissioner Dean Haselhorst voting in favor of the measure while McClelland voted against it. Wasinger recused herself because of a conflict of interest.
In other business, the commission approved the purchase of a new CERT trailer for $2,700 after trade-in from Advantage Glass Plus.
The commission also toured the Ellis County Dispatch Center at the Law Enforcement Center. The county has spent nearly $800,000 upgrading the system over the past year. The upgrades, paid for through the 911 surcharge on cell phone bills, include new dispatch consoles in the dispatch center, a new recording device for radio traffic and phone calls, installation of the new Next Generation 911 system and upgrades made to the Springhill tower site infrastructure.