Is new EMS building an emergency?

Commissioner Alonzo Morales says that the court has taken long enough — work on the design of a new EMS building should begin now. 

GOLIAD – It has been months now, and commissioners are still wrangling with the first steps necessary to build a new home for EMS.

Alonzo Morales, commissioner and volunteer fire chief, is still asking for $15,000 to pay for an architect to develop plans for just such a building.

EMS moved out of their building at Franklin and South Church streets last year because of what is being described as black mold. That move is not being disputed by commissioners and auditor.

John Creech, former EMS director, told commissioners during a prior meeting, “We noticed in certain bays that these guys were getting sick at work. We thought it was from the air conditioner. The mold has been there for a long time, at least four years.”

In September 2019, the county moved EMS from their building to a mobile home that was placed on the Precinct 1 yard. The city has continued to grant permission for the building to remain within the city limits, where mobile homes are not permitted except in certain areas.

At issue is not whether a new building is needed, but if the need constitutes an emergency based on the condition of the mobile home which recently underwent a cleaning because staff reported not feeling well while inside of it.

“We don’t want to go hiring an architect with no funds available,” said Kenneth Edwards, commissioner. “All we are trying to do is move this along so we have some numbers.”

Another question that remains is where it will be located. Morales may have that one solved.

School board trustees voiced their support for the idea of having an EMS, and even possibly a volunteer fire station if it could be worked out, on property owned by the school off U.S. Highway 183 just north of the high school tennis courts.

There is some concern because a portion of the property contains a creek, but Morales said the amount of usable land, just shy of two acres, would be enough.

“As we all know, they need a place to go that is better than what they currently have,” the fire chief said. 

“We need to quit kicking this down the road,” Edwards said.

What remains in debate is where to put the money so that it can be spent legally on the architect fees.

Morales said he believes the court previously authorized this money for an architect to be placed in a fund and spent. 

County Attorney Rob Baiamonte said that any action taken by the court should be filed in the courthouse.

The court, the county attorney said, could order the auditor to put this money into an account, despite county auditor Rusty Friedrichs’ concerns over the legality of the money transfer.

“That way it sets him up with contempt action, and we can dispute it if he decides not to do that,” Baiamonte said. 

Friedrichs said that, as of June 17, no budget amendments have been filed with the county clerk’s office to create the account in question for architect fees, a necessary step by the court before money can be transferred, to the current county budget.

On Monday, June 22, the court was expected to discuss this further.

“Rusty doesn’t get to decide,” Baiamonte said. “Commissioners court gets to make that decision. 

“If someone is opposed to creating that line item and saying it wasn’t an emergency, then a taxpayer can bring that to the district courts. 

“Rusty has no say so. He is not the arbitrator deciding what is an emergency or what is not.

“A jury can make that decision, or a district judge can make that decision.”

By this week, Morales said was confident he would have the money available.

County Judge Mike Bennett simply said, “I think everybody ought to have a decent place to work. We are going to get this done.”

Morales added, “This is the last time we are going work on it. We are going to get this done.”

Jason Collins is the editor at the Goliad Advance-Guard and can be reached at 361-343-5221, or at editor@mySouTex.com.