Pflugerville City Council voted Jan. 26 to postpone a resolution consenting to the creation of Travis County Emergency Services District No. 17. The resolution is in response to a petition created by the Pflugerville Professional Firefighters Association that garnered more than 4,700 signatures in the fall.

Decision deadline

The city of Pflugerville has until Feb. 8 to act upon the resolution. If approved, the proposed district overlay would be included on the city's May election ballot for consideration by voters.

“Tonight’s resolution is not to end EMS service in Pflugerville," City Manager Sereniah Breland said Jan. 26.

Breland said any decision to terminate emergency medical services would be under the discretion of the ESD board, not the city. She cited four concerns with ESD No. 2's proposal: a lack of evaluation of all funding options, outside of establishing a district overlay; a lack of financial evidence to support the overlay request; an explanation of sales tax revenue estimates not having been made available; and the threat of removing ambulances from district when the ESD has not provided financial evidence of bankruptcy.

In addition to the postponement, council is also requesting a joint meeting with the ESD No. 2 board and the Pflugerville delegation of the Travis County Commissioners Court to discuss all EMS funding options in advance of the Feb. 8 deadline.

Operational audits

Alongside the decision to postpone the resolution until a later date, council approved a resolution requesting Travis County perform a financial and operational audit of ESD No. 2. An operational audit would help council determine how ESD No. 2 is managing its resources compared to other entities, Council Member Mike Heath said.

According to Heath, ESD No. 2 has done a great job providing services to residents. The question remains how the district's growth and cost lines match up, he added.

"It's not a simple, obvious question. There's a lot of moving parts here," Council Member David Rogers said. "It's not clear where some of these doomsday predictions are coming from."

However, representatives from the PPFA said ESD No. 2's funding projections are not brand new. PPFA representative Trevor Stokes said the concerns have existed since 2013, the last time a district overlay was presented to council and subsequently rejected.

Stokes said there are no quick answers, studies or reports the ESD could show city leaders to change their minds. He said the city has an agenda and is going to suppress residents' votes as a result.

"What I hear you doing, and I hear you patting yourselves on the back, is denying and suppressing the vote," he said.

Prior to the council meeting, the PPFA held a rally outside of El Rincon Mexican Restaurant in downtown Pflugerville, where dozens of citizens showed up in favor of including the proposal on the May ballot.

"The message is clear: Let us vote. Let the citizens vote," PPFA President Joshua Stubblefield said. "They have a right to say what their public safety is. They have the right to vote on that."

He said 4,700 people are being silenced by City Council during this process and that the council is acting as though the citizens do not matter. Stubblefield said they are serving residents every day in this community and will keep fighting on behalf of residents' voting rights.

"I encourage you, the citizens, continue communicating with your council members and letting them know that you want to vote—that you deserve to vote," he said.

Seeking alternative options

Pflugerville City Council also unanimously approved Jan. 26 hiring AP Triton to assess and explore fire and EMS funding opportunities.

Council's ESD subcommittee, comprising Council Members Doug Weiss and Rudy Metayer, met several weeks ago and determined the need to create a plan and seek additional guidance. The consultant will help the city evaluate the "current deployment of resources and financial policies of the organization," Weiss said.

Richard Buchanan will serve as senior project manager for the city's assessment. Buchanan is a 30-year paramedic firefighter who is based in south Denver.

Buchanan spent the first 17 years of his career developing a third EMS system before spending the second half of his career starting in a suburban fire department with six stations.

"I think we will be able to give you a very objective and unbiased analysis," he said. "Folks, there are always options, and there will be more than one."