Plum Grove area residents will not be allowed to vote on ESD

Plum Grove Fire Chief Brandon Frazier asked Liberty County commissioners to vote in favor of a petition calling for an ESD in Plum Grove on Tuesday. The petition was denied.

A petition to start an emergency services district in the Plum Grove area was shut down Tuesday by the Liberty County Commissioners Court. Pct. 3 Commissioner David Whitmire was the only commissioner in favor of the ESD being placed on the May election ballot.

County Judge Jay Knight called for a second to Whitmire’s motion – three times – but the motion died for a lack of a second.

The three other commissioners – Bruce Karbowski, Greg Arthur and Leon Wilson – felt that creation of the ESD was not necessary for the health and safety of the residents of that area and that residents will be better served by Municipal Management District No. 1, which was created by Colony Ridge developer Trey Harris.

Had commissioners consented to the ESD election and voters then approved it, the ESD would have collected $0.06 per $100 valuation on properties within the district. For a $100,000 property, it would have been the equivalent of $60 additional tax dollars for the ESD. The MMD has collected $0.36 per $100 valuation of properties since 2017.

Liberty County Elections Administrator Klint Bush (left) and Fire Marshal Bill Hergemueller (right) review maps for a proposed ESD for Plum Grove.

The petition was proven to be valid and legal, and survived a review by the Liberty County Attorney’s Office and the Elections Administrator’s Office. It had the appropriate amount of signatures from registered voters who live within the proposed district who wanted an opportunity to vote on the ESD, which ultimately may have benefitted Plum Grove Volunteer Fire Department through additional funding.

“The commissioners court has the ability to review whether or not they believe the addition of an ESD is necessary and would make the community safer,” said County Attorney Matthew Poston.

Plum Grove Fire Chief Brandon Frazier, who spoke at the commissioners court meeting, argued that the residents should not be denied the opportunity to vote on a valid petition.

“If the petition is found to be in working order, then the people have the right to say, ‘Hey, this is what I want or don’t want. If they say they don’t want it, then fair enough; it was their decision. If they say they do want it, then it gets to move forward,” Frazier said. “I am asking everyone involved in this situation today to please remember that and help support people having a decision on these things.”

One issue that weighed against the petition was that the MMD already collects ad valorem taxes on tens of thousands of properties within the proposed ESD boundaries. This would have resulted in a double taxation for property owners. Harris argued that the proposed ESD’s lines were drawn to include the MMD.

“There are over 30,000 different property owners in the MMD. The bulk of those property owners have recently purchased property and do not reside there yet and haven’t had the opportunity to vote, so the fallacy of the argument is to let the people vote,” Harris said.

However, there is no guarantee that those property owners will choose to build on their properties or if they are even eligible to vote. In the last election for Cleveland ISD’s bond in November 2021, 57 voters cast ballots at the Santa Fe Administration Building inside the Colony Ridge voting location. Almost as many other people attempted to vote in that election at that same polling place but were denied due to a lack of citizenship.

The vote for the petition came just days after Plum Grove volunteer firefighters plucked stranded motorists from flooded roadways leading through Plum Grove and into the Colony Ridge communities and four years after the creation of the MMD.

The vote on Tuesday appears to have prompted some discussion between the County, Plum Grove VFD and the Colony Ridge developer about what is needed for fire service to ensure the safety of citizens and properties. Harris told commissioners he foresees the need for four fire stations within his communities.

In other business, commissioners court:

  • approved a request from Liberty County District Attorney Jennifer Bergman Harkness to give $1,500 to the 2022 training budgets of Cleveland, Dayton and Liberty police departments, and all six of the constable’s offices in the county;
  • approved the purchase and installation of Hunter Douglas blinds for all three district attorney offices to be paid from the department’s Special Investigative Funds in the amount of $12,594;
  • approved the Liberty County Jail to purchase additional camera systems from the MTS Montgomery Technology Systems LLC at a cost of $26,900;
  • approved a preliminary plat approval for Encino Estates Section 5 in Dayton. This plat is for 155 lots with each measuring at slightly more than a half-acre;
  • approved the reappointment of Mark Neil, Ritchie Ewing and Klint Bush to the ESD #7 Board for two-year terms; and
  • approved the District Attorney’s Office to pay for a mobile command unit to assist all law enforcement agencies to perform their essential work remotely in the field.

6 COMMENTS

  1. ” approved a request from Liberty County District Attorney Jennifer Bergman Harkness to give $1,500 to the 2022 training budgets of Cleveland, Dayton and Liberty police departments, and all six of the constable’s offices in the county. ” REALLY? a WHOLE $1500.00 for them all? Why can a gofundme raise tens of thousands of $ , yet a $1500 budget makes the news, to support the people that protect us from crime and rescue us from harm due to fires and evil things. That is messed up, people. Priorities.

  2. It’s $1,500 per agency… and this has nothing to do with their normal budgets ! It’s from a seizure fund from DA’s office… and to clarify it didn’t make the news!… it’s public record from commissioners court… it’s funny how you comment on money being given but not anything about what the article was actually about… Plum Grove Residents now being allowed to VOTE on ESD.

  3. This just shows that the Harris money is at work again and Plum Grove{ that has taken care of these subdivisions for as long as they have been there and before} get the shaft again. Way to go all of you good ol’ boys at the county. We really need to vote them out of office!

  4. I guess I owe the Real resident of Liberty County an apology. i reread the article and I don’t even know what ESD means. I suppose I’m stupid in the ways of politics . Sri to have responded to one of the news facts in the NEWS article here, and not stayed on topic. It did not state that each office would get $1500. My bad. Nevertheless, even $1500-added-per-agency seems to be peanuts compared to what I see raised for so many others, cops who stormed into a fiery house recently and others who took killers off the streets in just the last month. I’d be happy to send a check to DaytonFD or DaytonPD or the Ambulance services directly, and NOT the “phone call” I get raising money and keeping 90% of it for themselves. I am sure that plenty of folks would support the PD/FD/ambulance services if we would be sure that 100% of our funds went directly to them. They ALWAYS respond to me in a professional manner when I need help and I really appreciate that. Just tell us where to send our checks, Dayton PD chief or Dayton FD chief, and lets get the ball rolling. No need for these people to be on a shoestring budget when there are so many open and generous hearts here in Liberty Country who appreciate the efforts of our law and rescue personnel. I will be first and lead the pack of generosity.

  5. So how many house/wild fires has that Colony Ridge MMD EVER put out? How many people has that MMD ever rescued from high water? If the answer is “NONE!”, then somebody please explain this logic of “… residents will be better served by Municipal Management District No. 1, which was created by Colony Ridge developer Trey Harris”. 😐

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