ZAVALLA, TX (KTRE) - Zavalla volunteer fire fighters are used to heat, but it it was a different kind of heat in the Zavalla City Council Chamber Monday night.
The council and department came to verbal blows over the way the city asks residents for donations for the department. According to Zavalla Fire Captain and Treasurer Richard Brunk, during the last meeting the council agreed to look into a proposed plan that would send a letter to customers telling them $1 would be added to their bill. Brunk said residents would have the option to decline the donation by checking a "no box" on the letter. The current set up allows for customers to put a check mar on their bill that asks for a donation to be added. Brunk argued there has been very small funds gained that way and that sometimes the box would not appear on monthly bills.
The item was up for discussion by the council only, but mayor Kelly Dickenson did let Brunk make a statement. After heated words, Brunk and other fire department members left the meeting.
"We can live without your money, but can you live without us," Brunk said."All we're asking the city to do is put $1 on the water bill. That's all we're asking. it would be $460 a month. $460 a month. Is that one dollar worth giving us the ability to save a life. to save a house."
In his short address to the city, Brunk told members of council that they are trying to do the right thing.
"We put personal feeling aside and we go help that person," Brunk said. "I think this council needs to do that."
In the meeting, push back came from member Sue Hough who worried about and legal issues the city may have.
"If they do not check that box, then their bill become late," Hough said. "Are we responsible then for that?"
Brunk stated in the meeting that Hough was for his proposal at the last meeting and is upset that she is now questioning the idea. After the meeting, Hough disputed that claim.
"I said [back] then, it feels like you are being dishonest," Hough said. "In other words, by omission, you are going to pay that extra dollar. "I hate that he got ugly. I mean he shouldn't have said anything. None of them should of. it should have been done a lot more professionally."
Brunk claimed Hough has always been against the department.
"Mrs. Hough is stirring the pot because she does not like me because the stance we took while Mayor Davis was in office," Brunk said. "The sad thing is that not a member on our department right now would not get up and go to her house if it was on fire or go to her house and administer first aid. We can put our personal feelings aside and do our job. They can't. What the city needs to understand is that we are not obligated to the city in any shape or form."
According to Brunk, the department has the largest coverage area in the county when it comes to the volunteer departments and receives the least amount of help.
"We've gotten like $58 off of the water bills since 1998," Brunk said. "We get $800 a month [from the county]. Huntington is very, very generous with their department. So is Hudson. Moffit, they get water off of like two or three different water boards out there. If everyone has been doing it for so long. Why is it now an issue?"
After the department members left, Dickenson told council members he does want the city to support the volunteers and would try to reach out to Brunk and other members on his personal time. Brunk said the city is pro-first responders and does not want it to appear they are not willing to work out a plan.