PUBLIC SAFETY A year after board shakeup, ESD No. 9 cites progress on planning, stang eorts
CYFAIR FIRE DEPARTMENT STATIONS The re department’s rst station opened in 1978, and 12 additional stations have been added since. Harris County ESD No. 9 ocials are consulting with Citygate Associates to determine where future stations should be located.
BY DAVE MANNING
CYFAIR FIRE STATION NUMBER:
It’s been just over a year since three new commissioners—Naressa MacK- innon, Kevin Stertzel and Robert Paiva—were elected to serve on the Harris County Emergency Services District No. 9 board following a campaign focused on transparency and tax relief. Local ocials said the past year has been marked by both challenges and successes. “To provide a high level of ser- vice it takes all three: the board of commissioners, the command sta that sets policy. and the boots on the ground—the reghters—and it’s great that we can all come together,” said Chris Fillmore, president of the Cy-Fair Professional Fireghters Association. Some of the major accomplish- ments of district leadership in the last year include hiring a consultant group to formulate short-term and long-term plans for the district; hiring dedicated resources to oversee nance and employee recruiting; and adding a mental health program for employees, ESD 9 ocials said. In addition, the board approved the implementation of a bilingual stipend, lowered the property tax rate, raised the elderly and disabled homestead exemptions, and pur- chased land for new re stations, board President MacKinnon said. “In the last year, I’ve learned to navigate and understand the inner workings of the re department and laws associated with the industry, ... to listen to the many dierent and interesting perspectives, and nd tting solutions as a team, and most importantly learned that our command sta and members are top- tier,” MacKinnon said in an email. Planning for the future The board hired consulting rm Citygate Associates to continue the long-range plan initiated prior to last May’s election. The rm has been contracted to provide a re master plan, community risk assessment, compliance audit and strategic plan. The assessment will position the district to meet existing and future service needs and analyze projected population growth to determine where new stations need to be
MEET THE BOARD Three of the board’s ve commissioners were elected last May, unseating incumbents as they promised to reduce property taxes and increase transparency. 1 9202 Rodney Ray Blvd., Houston 2 13040 Wortham Center Drive, Houston 3 11827 Telge Road, Cypress 4 18006 Humeister Road, Cypress 5 17819 Kieth Harrow Blvd., Houston 6 6404 N. Eldridge Parkway, Houston 7 20444 Cypresswood Drive, Cypress 8 18210 FM 529, Cypress 9 7188 Cherry Park Drive, Houston 10 11310 Steeplecrest Drive, Houston 11 18132 West Road, Cypress 12 19780 Kieth Harrow Blvd., Katy 13 10222 Westgreen Blvd., Cypress
CYPRESS ROSEHILL RD.
Land purchases for future stations in Towne Lake, Dunham Pointe and Bridgeland were included in the 2023 budget.
WORTHAM CENTER DR.
KIETH HARROW HARROW BLVD.
CHERRY PARK DR.
RODNEY RAY BLVD.
N. ELDRIDGE PKWY.
SOURCE: CYFAIR FIRE DEPARTMENTCOMMUNITY IMPACT
human resources director to help recruit more rst responders. Finding talented and dedicated resources has not been easy for the district in recent years, Fillmore said. “Stang is a big issue not only in our district but across the nation. COVID[-19] had a big impact on the ranks of reghters and emergency medical personnel,” Fillmore said. Financial challenges In addition to recruitment, funding is always a top concern in emergency services, particularly when the Texas Legislature is in session, Ramon said. “Every legislative session, there’s pushback against ad valorem tax and sales tax. Those are our main sources of income to run the department and plan for the future, ... and since Senate Bill 2 was put in place [in 2019], our tax rate decreases every year,” she said. While the Cy-Fair Fire Department provides re, EMS and dispatch services for $0.06 per $100 valuation, Ramon noted other parts of the county pay taxes to two separate ESDs—up to $0.20 per $100 valuation. “Our property tax rate is half of what other districts have, and we should be proud of that low rate and the high quality of service we are providing,” Fillmore said.
located, Fire Chief Amy Ramon said in an email. New mental health program Another new initiative the board implemented is a mental health program for rst responders. “As a wife of a rst responder and a former volunteer myself, I’m deeply invested in keeping our public servants safe and healthy, especially mentally,” MacKinnon said. Fillmore said the emergency ser- vices sector has seen a rise in suicides and post-traumatic stress disorder. Citing data from the National Institute of Health, he said PTSD among reghters and paramedics is estimated to be up to 37% compared to the national rate of 6.8%. The new program consists of a critical stress management team and a peer support team, allowing rst responders 24/7 access to assistance. Stang the department MacKinnon said in the past year, the board identied a need for a nance director to streamline operations as well as a new marketing director to help raise community awareness about the department and to increase public safety. Another achievement MacKinnon cited was the decision to hire a
NARESSA MACKINNON Elected in 2022
KEVIN STERTZEL Elected in 2022 ROBERT PAIVA Elected in 2022 BEVIN GORDON Elected in 2020
DAVID LANGENBERG Elected in 2016
SOURCE: HARRIS COUNTY ESD NO. 9 COMMUNITY IMPACT
CYFAIR EDITION • JUNE 2023
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