More than two months have passed since Brown County Judge Paul Lilly brought up the topic of having a county fire marshal to the commissioners court, but Lilly has not forgotten about the topic.
Lilly emailed the Bulletin a copy of the the June invoice to Brownwood Fire Marshal Buddy Preston’s office for Preston’s services in investigating county fires. The invoice totaled $650 — $200 for a tractor and baler fire, $200 for a structure fire on CR 292 and $250 for a structure fire on CR 333.
Lilly also emailed a copy of a message he received from Brownwood Fire Chief Eddy Wood, who said a fire investigator would not be available for county fires from Friday morning through Monday morning. That’s because Wood and Preston are both off, Wood said in the message.
“Volunteers are encouraged to take photos and forward the information to me as I will be covering for Buddy next week,” the Wood’s message also stated.
When asked for elaboration, Lilly said by email he thinks it’s
“dangerous not having a fire marshal on call 24/7 … this is one of the situations I foresaw last spring and tried to avoid.”
Commissioner Wayne Shaw disputed Lilly’s contention that most counties the size of Brown have a designated county fire marshal.
Shaw said the Texas Fire Marshal’s Association indicates that out of Texas’ 254 counties, 60, or 24 percent, have a fire marshal.
Twenty-five percent of the counties with a population spread of 33,000 to 43,000 have a fire marshal, Shaw said.
'll just respond to him by stating the most progressive counties our size provide the best services possible to their citizens,” Lilly said via email. “I do not want, nor will I accept, the excuse from anyone of ‘that’s the way it's always been done.’ That is an inexcusable position from an elected leader.”
In February, commissioners acted on an agenda item that authorized Lilly to sign a resolution that commissioners would later rescind. That resolution, according to the agenda item, allowed David Creed — who is the county’s emergency management coordinator — to apply for a county fire marshal’s license with the Texas Commission on Fire Protection and Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.
Commissioners said later they did not read the resolution before authorizing Lilly to sign it. Commissioners went on to learn that the resolution created the office of fire marshal and appointed Creed to that position. Commissioners voted 3-1 on April 15 to rescind the resolution, saying the resolution had gone beyond the agenda item.
In April, commissioners unanimously approved Lilly’s request that he be allowed to begin drafting a new, non-binding resolution — with input from each commissioner — that authorizes the position of a county fire marshal’s office and the writing of a job description.
Commissioner Gary Worley said then that he envisioned a time frame of 18 months to two years before a county fire marshal is actually appointed. Worley said earlier that commissioners had been under the impression that a county fire marshal wouldn’t be appointed until Brownwood Fire Marshal Buddy Preston — who investigates county fires on a contract basis — retires in that time frame.
Lilly has not brought a new resolution before the commissioners court.
“He can do all the resolution he wants, but we’re not going to pass it,” Shaw said Friday.
Lilly said by email, “I believe that all of the commissioners do have the best interest of the citizens in mind, but we sometimes disagree on how to achieve this. A few weeks ago the commissioners voted to work with me to restart the resolution process to designate a full time county fire marshal.
“Situations like (last) weekend, which is one of the busiest times of the year for fireworks issues and possible arson cases, is exactly why we have to address this and provide the citizens with full time coverage. I believe we will get there, but I am sure hoping it will be sooner than later so we can avoid gaps in service like the one before us.”
On another matter, Lilly said he will be proposing “on the note of providing better services” the creation of a full-time environmental protection and enforcement officer “to help clean up the trouble spots in the county.
“ … I am open to all suggestions from the county commissioners as to ways to help make our services provided as professional as possible and to do so within our existing budget. The taxpayers of our county are paying their share and all they can afford, so we must find new and innovative was to to more with less and to do it even better than in the past. That is what our residents are hoping and expecting from us and I am 100 percent committed to achieving this.”