In a lengthy discussion at a budget workshop July 22, the New Waverly City Council approved a general fund budget to give both the public library and the fire department $20,000.
Two weeks earlier at a City Council meeting, the volunteer fire department asked for an additional $12,500 for funding to hire a part-time firefighter to man the station during the day.
The council voted to support both organizations equally and deny the fire department’s request for additional funding.
“We can’t do without a fire department and we just got a new library and we don’t want to close the doors on it. If you give one entity $20,000, why not give the other entity $20,000? That was my reasoning,” said Mayor Dan Underwood at the July 22 meeting. “It’s not that one is better or more important than the other one. It’s not based upon importance. It’s based upon their needs. They both need it.
Since the fire department did not receive the funds they requested, they will put off hiring a firefighter for now, according to New Waverly fire chief Jacob Slott.
“Not getting the money is going to make it where we can’t afford to get a part-time paid firefighter here in the city,” he said. “The emergency service district could afford to pay half of the salary, $12,500, but they couldn’t afford to pay all of it. We’re just going to put that on the back burner until maybe we can get help from somebody else.
“If we can get somebody here, I can assign different guys to different things and we can start getting some of the testing done on equipment like hoses, different paperwork and maintenance on trucks or stuff that’s broken or needs to be replaced,” Slott said. “We don’t always have time to do inspections.”
Former fire chief James Gregory also said that part of the reason for the needed help is because of the decline in numbers of volunteers.
“For about eight years, volunteers were around 20 members,” he said. “We have about 12 to 13 now. There’s also two months worth of paperwork that needs to be entered into the computer. Volunteers are great, but they lack habits of checking trucks, keeping up when the oil needs to be changed and cleaning the trucks. It wouldn’t take many hours to fix the station up.”
Sue Smith, president of the library’s board of directors, said she considers both the library and the fire department as both vital components to the community.
“I want to make it clear that there is no conflict between the library and the fire department,” she said. “We’re a small town and we all know each other, so we don’t want or do we need there to be any conflict. We also didn’t take any money away from the fire department. We have a budget and the city provided us with money that we asked for.
“This will be our first year in our new building. The library used to be where City Hall currently is. It was only three or four rooms, but now we have over 10,000 square feet. It’s completely paid for and plus, we have more visitors and more participation now.
“We also have more books and magazines through the Interlibrary loan program through Houston. I feel that we both provide invaluable services to the community and that both organizations are worthy from what I can tell.”
Without the funding, the fire department will continue to purchase equipment through budgeted money and fundraisers while trying to increase the number of volunteers.
“The plan is to keep working on our equipment and get some more volunteers and try get more spare time out of our current volunteers than what I’m already asking for so we can get a lot of this stuff done,” Slott said. “We have to buy equipment that we’re lacking around the station. Right now, that’s more important than hiring a firefighter.
“The city spoke with what they thought was right,” he said. “That’s why everybody is entitled to their own opinion. Let’s just hope they made the right one.”