On Feb. 4, Williamson County commissioners approved a request from the Travis County Department of Emergency Services to terminate a mutual aid agreement established in1992.
Emergency Management Coordinator Jarred Thomas said the agreement originated as a gentlemens agreement between the counties.
A lot of things have changed in the law since then, Thomas said. Following the Labor Day fires of 2011, there came about a lot of issues of federal reimbursement during a disaster declaration. It all had to stem from mutual aid agreements.
According to a letter from Travis County Emergency Management Coordinator Pete Baldwin, Travis County experienced several problems with its existing mutual aid agreements while filing for reimbursements forthree fire mitigation assistance grants awarded during the 2011 Labor Day fires.
Of special concern to Travis county is the fact that other governmental entities which assisted in these fires were being denied reimbursement, the letter read. After careful consideration and discussions with local, state and federal personnel, Travis County feels it is more efficient to request or provide assistance during disasters under the State Mutual Aid Plan than to maintain existing mutual aid agreements.
Thomas and Baldwin said that dissolving the agreement does not mean the counties will stop providing aid to one another. Participation in the State Mutual Aid Plan, found in chapter 418 of the Government Code, allowsa county in need to go to the state to find assistance if none is readily available in theimmediate area.
We will still respond when requests are made, if we are able, Baldwin said. We will make our requests under the statewide mutual aid [agreement]. This has nothing to do with not wanting help or not being able to help.