To: Robert Arnold, Channel 2
From: Board President Captain Jose Ramirez
Subject: Recent story on legal dispute
Date: February 22, 2016
Robert, thanks for taking the time to research and cover the legal battle between West I-10 VFD and ESD 48. I appreciate the invitation to be interviewed and I hope we will talk again soon.
For future reference, I do want to go on the record with a few clarifications.
First, the story stated that ESD 48 funded West I-10 VFD with taxpayer dollars for 36 years. While it is correct that West I-10 VFD has served the greater Katy area for 36 years, our non-profit only began receiving reimbursement for services from ESD 48 in 2003. Prior to 2003 we received reimbursement for services from RFPD 48.
In short, we can show you that most of our funding is earned as a result of the services we provide. Also, as a non-profit volunteer organization, we can provide the services to the public at a fraction of what a fully paid service costs the local taxpayers.
More important however, is the fact that our service to the community was exemplary and I challenge ESD 48 to show you any instance where West I-10 VFD’s response to an incident was substandard.
It is indeed unfortunate that West I-10 VFD-owned equipment is sitting idle as a result of ESD 48’s breach of contract. We are perplexed why, rather than working with us until the legal matter is resolved in a matter of months, ESD 48 is instead committing large sums of taxpayer dollars for duplicative services. In fact, while ESD 48 admitted they spent $3 million for trucks and ambulances,
they have actually committed over $7 million in short and long-term debt.
I want to stress this point again: on August 14, 2015, West I-10 VFD offered to continue services or enter into a mutual aid agreement with ESD 48. ESD board president Marshall Kramer gave us an emphatic NO. I asked why, and he stated it was as a result of West I-10 VFD’s decision to terminate (for cause) some of his personal friends. This is an egregious abuse of power by an elected official and
not in the best interest of public safety. It is politics – having nothing to do with any shortcomings in the service provided to the community by West I-10 VFD.
ESD 48 moved forward with breaching the contract on August 17th and began providing 911 service with no stations, fire trucks, ambulances, equipment, or gear of their own. None. They operated with borrowed assets from neighboring departments, rented gear, and 3rd party contracts. It wasn't until the August 24th TRO hearing they received some assets back based on the judge's ruling.
Additionally, the story refers to the “transition” of services to ESD 48. There was no transition. This was a breach of contract plain and simple, and an attempt to seize the assets that are legally owned by West I-10 VFD, some of which date back to before the creation of ESD 48.
What can only be described as unfortunate and ironic, the ESD is solely responsible for creating the very problem for which they now make complaint. The ESD did not have to interrupt the service being provided by West I-10 –service, which historically for the last 36 years was professionally consistent in terms of quality and safety. Instead, the ESD decided to breach a contract with West I-10 - which wasn’t done as part of an effort to save money or for budgetary reasons, which not only had the effect of ending 36 years of service and safety, but also forced unnecessary expenditures on equipment and personnel, while jeopardizing the safety of thousands of citizens and why - for petty personal reasons of those running the ESD. This entire episode could have been avoided by the ESD if it had honored the existing contract and acted professionally - but sadly, this did not occur. Who could blame the taxpayers if they, like the personnel at West I-10, are scratching their heads and asking "Why?"
I am always available for follow up; do not hesitate to contact me any time.
West I-10 Volunteer Fire Department Corrects Inaccuracies Regarding ESD 48 Lawsuit Expresses Concerns Over ESD 48 Waste of Equipment, Taxpayer Dollars
(Houston, TX) – February 22, 2016 – West I-10 Volunteer Fire Department (WI-10 VFD) today issued a statement to provide facts about the legal dispute with ESD 48, against which WI-10 VFD has filed suit for breach of contract.
“We have seen numerous inaccuracies regarding our position and what has transpired to date, and the public has a right to know the facts,” said Board President Captain Jose Ramirez. “We have served the greater Katy area for 36 years, and our intention is to continue this heritage of service.”
ESD 48’s actions are an attempt to seize the assets that are legally owned by West I-10 VFD. While WI- 10 VFD has existed for 36 years, the non-profit only began receiving reimbursement for services from ESD 48 in 2003. Prior to that, WI-10 VFD received reimbursement for services from RFPD 48. The compensation that WI-10 VFD received from ESD 48 was for fire suppression and EMS services provided under oral and written service agreements with ESD 48. In turn, WI-10 purchased fire apparatus and other equipment with the service agreement funds so that it could fulfill its duties under those agreements and protect the public.
The entities are embroiled in a legal dispute that is expected to go to trial in May 2016. Instead of awaiting the results of this trial, ESD 48 is building a duplicate organization; wasting taxpayer dollars and squandering available existing assets. On August 14, 2015, West I-10 VFD offered to continue services or enter into a mutual aid agreement with ESD 48. ESD board president Marshall Kramer declined outright.
“It is unfortunate that West I-10 VFD-owned equipment is sitting idle as a result of ESD 48’s breach of contract,” said Ramirez. “We are perplexed why, rather than working with us until the legal matter is resolved in a matter of months, ESD 48 is instead committing millions of taxpayer dollars for duplicative services. The taxpayers need to be asking why ESD 48 decided to take services in house
resulting in tremendous public cost when there were no complaints whatsoever with the services provided by West I-10. They will find the answer to be nothing more than politics and an egregious abuse of power by elected officials.”
Since breaching its contract with WI-10 VFD, ESD 48 has already committed over $7 million in short and long-term debt. By contrast, WI-10 VFD operated over $1 million under budget over the past few years.
“This is a classic example of a government takeover,” said Ramirez. “Any non-profit or business that hears about our situation should consider their own reaction if a government body were to use legal action to seize assets that they worked for decades to build and grow, not to mention the loss of very experienced and highly trained and committed emergency service personnel.”
About West I-10 Volunteer Fire Department
For 36 years, the West I-10 Volunteer Fire Department has served the residents and businesses in the 45 square mile area between the energy corridor and Katy, Texas. Over the years, the capabilities expanded from several volunteers to multiple fire stations, advanced fire equipment and emergency medical services staffed by hundreds of individuals, with a continuing focus on well trained and
equipped volunteers who want to serve the community.
West I-10 VFD is confident that the its lawsuit against ESD 48 will be successful and West I-10 will resume providing service to the citizens of the Greater Katy area within a few months. Meanwhile, West I-10 VFD continues to be one of the best-trained and equipped fire and emergency response departments in the region. For schools, churches, community groups and other organizations West I-10
VFD offers fire safety and preparation presentations and training, including CPR. West I-10 VFD also continues to offer mutual aid assistance to other fire departments in the area, when an emergency is too much for them to handle alone.
(Houston, TX) – August 24, 2015 – The judge in the 215th District Court of Harris County today ruled on the Temporary Injunction filed by both parties in the dispute between West I-10 Volunteer Fire Department and ESD 48.
In essence, the ruling stipulates that ESD 48 assumes control of the vehicles for which it holds the titles and that it may temporarily have control of Fire Stations 3, 4, and 5 as well as the assets contained within those stations. West I-10 Volunteer Fire Department maintains control of its remaining assets, including two fire stations and multiple vehicles. This ruling remains in effect until the dispute goes to trial, which is scheduled for May 31, 2016.
“The judge’s decision to let ESD 48’s termination of our agreement stand, pending the outcome of the trial is a temporary setback for the people of the greater Katy area,” said West I-10 Volunteer Fire Department Board President Captain Jose Ramirez. “ESD 48 has elected not to utilize our services, and their service delivery will continue to suffer as a result. On a positive note, today’s decision enables us to move forward with serving the community in other ways.”