Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to remove a map that incorrectly displayed the location of the Samsung plant.

TAYLOR, Texas (KXAN) — The Avery-Pickett Volunteer Fire Department (APVFD) said a discussion item at this week’s Taylor City Council meeting is one of the first signs that it could be disbanded. This comes two years after rebuilding after its former fire chief was arrested and charged with stealing over $300,000.

APVFD’s assistant fire chief John Shelton says what’s proposed is that personnel from Williamson County Emergency Service District (ESD) No. 10 would take over calls in his department’s service area – the ETJ or Extra Territorial Jurisdiction outside the city.

“It would abolish our fire department, we would no longer be here,” said Shelton.

ESDs operate like partners. If an emergency call rings out to ESD 6 in Weir, and Coupland responders from ESD 10 are the only department available to respond – they will.

However, Shelton says this leaves people in ESD 10 vulnerable if an emergency happens and no one is around to respond.

Shelton says APVFD has been excluded from calls they may have responded to faster because of this as it’s not part of the ESD’s auto-aid system.

After a 911 call, the system only reaches out to agencies it has agreements with – Shelton says the department has expressed interest in securing an agreement but with no further development.

“They’re responding to fires nearby that we might get to within eight minutes,” said Shelton.

The assistant chief said this proposal is a slap in the face to volunteers that stayed on despite heavy scrutiny and struggle following the November 2021 arrest of former fire chief Billy Dale Hughes Jr.

According to Williamson County court records, Hughes will face pre-trial court proceedings next month.

Shelton says the department built itself back up with help from fire stations across the nation.

If the department was no longer needed its ladder truck, several water trucks, and emergency response vehicle would be donated to other agencies.

Video sparks interest online

APVFD says an independent consultant approached them for a video about these ETJ issues – which has been making rounds on social media this week.

KXAN reached out to Williamson County about the video and claims made in it – Chris Connealy, senior director of Emergency Services for Williamson County provided this statement – which references auto-aid agreements in the county:

“Williamson County Emergency Communications utilizes a Computer Assisted Dispatch (CAD) software that sends that jurisdiction where the incident occurs. A number of the fire departments have initiated auto-aid agreements that get programmed into our CAD to also send those neighboring fire departments with auto-aid agreements to that incident when it is initially dispatched. Avery Pickett VFD does not have any auto-aid agreements, but they can request mutual aid from fire departments they request and the County dispatchers will send those departments if they are available to assist. Additionally, other fire departments in the County that do not have auto-aid agreements, would do the same thing and request mutual aid.

Bottom line, Williamson County Emergency Communications does not determine what fire departments to assist the jurisdiction. It is either predetermined with auto-aid agreements or send mutual aid assistance based on what that fire department requests.”

Chris Connealy, senior director of Emergency Services

Why the change?

Shelton says money is motivating this move.

Emergency Service Districts can impose both a sales and use tax, and a property tax to support emergency services in land in the ESD.

The area the ESD would provide service to, Shelton says, would contain the land where Samsung is building its semi-conductor plant. He theorizes that revenue from those property taxes would be great and only grow as more businesses would move to that area.

“I believe it’s 100% to reap the benefits of the taxes,” Shelton said.

Thursday, Taylor’s City Council will only discuss how this change could impact the city and have no plans for action so far.

A follow up message from Williamson County shared that ESD No. 10 was seeking a May 2023 election in order to bring the decision before voters this coming May.