BRAZOS COUNTY, TX — This May 1 Election Day is important to many, including first responders in Brazos County.
The need for more funding in one particular district, is critical. Some supporters say a ballot measure would help, but not everyone agrees.
Saturday in Brazos County was all about a proposed 1.5 percent sales tax for Brazos County Emergency Services District No. 1 which provides money for the South Brazos County Fire Department to operate.
"We're pretty much everything South College Station down between the rivers and for us to be able to hire some firefighters, which is becoming really necessary, this is very crucial for us," Chet Barker, Fire Chief of South Brazos County Fire Department in Brazos County said.
Funds, Chief Barker says, are vital, to support their significant increase in call volume over the years.
"When I joined the department for the second time in 1999 we ran between 200-300 calls in a year, which wasn't too bad for volunteer firefighters. Since then, it's just been an incremental increase. This last year we ran over 750 calls...," he added.
Chief Barker says they are trying to provide for the health and safety of the community and as the population grows, they do not want to fall behind.
"...we need to stay ahead of the curve. Keep our equipment up. Keep our personnel in good shape. Keep them well-trained. Keep enough personnel that we can do the job that we need to do," Chief Barker added.
While the proposal has been on the Chief's mind for quite some time, it hasn't been on the forefront of others.
"There's already plenty enough of tax dollars there to support that..," Paul Hagerty, a resident voting against the sales tax said. "We were only notified of this day before yesterday. A good bit of that neighborhood is secondary homes.. So people are not going to be able to vote anyway. This is not right. No time to review it or anything," he added.
With their current all-volunteer staff, Chief Barker says when firefighters get the call to respond, they are at home or at their day job and improving their response time with the station already staffed... is something some residents can agree with.
"Fire protection is an important community service. We are interested in our community, and we want to advance it," Brazos County resident Gary Fish voting for the ESD No. 1 Sales Tax proposal said.
The Elections Administrator for Brazos County says the turnout of this special election for early voting was slim. Officials saw less than 50 people cast their ballot in a week in a half of early voting, but that changed Saturday.
"There are 8,200 people in this jurisdiction (ESD No. 1)... So it would be sad for only 44 people to decide what all 8,200 people would be affected by," Elections Administration, Trudy Hancock said. "We have had a substantial increase in participation today," She added.
According to Chief Barker, the proposal passed Saturday. He says there were 222 total votes, with 150 in favor and 72 against.