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Plum Grove area ESD petition fails

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Liberty County commissioners appear to have rejected a petition by more than 100 residents in the greater Plum Grove area to place a measure on the upcoming May 2022 ballot to form the new Emergency Services District No. 8. According to County Attorney Matthew Poston, the petition was in order and submitted to the court just before the deadline to have it placed on the ballot. He said that while it had passed all legal measures for submission, the commissioners would need to approve the district on its merits.

“Is the creation of the district feasible? Will it promote public safety, welfare, health, and convenience for the people residing in the proposed district?” Poston asked of the court.

Once commissioners tackled the issue, they declined to act on the item after Pct. 3 Commissioner David Whitmire failed to get a second from commissioners Bruce Karbowski, Greg Arthur, and Leon Wilson to his motion to approve the measure.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Plum Grove Volunteer Fire Chief Brandon Frazier addressed the court, asking the commissioners to pass the proposal.

“Formally, I just want to say that I obviously support this. I think that the area needs it. It will obviously give a lot to the area and to the people that the volunteer fire department already serves,” Frazier said.

Frazier further said that he believed the residents of that area had the right to vote on the issue, citing the valid petition to be considered for a place on the ballot. That clearly was a sentiment that most of the court disagreed on, as did Colony Ridge LLC developer Trey Harris.

“All I want to say is the area that’s drawn for the district, number one is over an existing district, and number two, it’s over 30,000 different property owners. The bulk of those property owners have recently purchased property and do not reside there yet, to have the opportunity to vote. The fallacy of his argument is let the people vote; well, the vast majority of the people that own property that you would be taxing with this district already exists in a district that provides the same services, and number two, they don’t live there yet, so they can’t vote,” said Harris.

The other district that Harris spoke of is Municipal Management District No. 1, which serves the residents of Colony Ridge, which makes up the most populated portion of the proposed new district. MMD No. 1 already imposes an ad valorem property tax on residents in that district, as would an ESD.

According to Poston, while there would be a conflict if two ESD’s crossed boundaries, there were no conflicts when an ESD and MMD crossed each other. However, the MMD already has plans for its fire and safety facilities within that area. Harris believes there will be upwards of four fire stations in the MMD, and they would have no need for any services by the ESD, which would also tax the area if approved.

County Judge Jay Knight suggested that the groups at the end of the day needed to work together to find solutions for fire and safety in the area. As for any future ESD in the Plum Grove area, that is up in the air and would likely need another petition to be considered in the future.