West I-10 Fire Department
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.