'They hit the reset button,' North Lake community opts to reorganize fire department

Steve Nash
Brownwood Bulletin
Volunteer fire department

BROWNWOOD  — Speaking out at a standing-room-only public forum Saturday, residents served by the North Lake Brownwood Volunteer Fire Department decided to "hit the reset button" for the troubled organization.

Brown County Judge Paul Lilly and Precinct 2 Commissioner Joel Kelton hosted the  forum at the American Legion Post 470 post at North Lake Brownwood. About 125 residents attended.

Lilly served as the moderator.

Lilly addressed the media Monday about the forum and reorganization, saying the department — which serves the Harbor Point, Tamarack Mountain, Thunderbird Bay and Oak Point subdivisions —  had experienced turmoil "for quite some time."

In the reorganization, those elected were:

• Chief — Carl Baxley, a retired firefighter from Hobbs, N.M.

• Assistant chief — Scott Piece, who previously served as chief of the department.

• Captain — Keith Bast.

• Board president — Bryan Taylor.

• Secretary/treasurer — Paula Turner. 

Lilly said the community had the options of keeping the department as it was, reorganizing or disbanding. The vote to reorganize was overwhelming.

"They hit the reset button," Lilly said.

The issues with the volunteer fire department "got to the point where my chief of emergency management coordinator, Darrell Johnston, myself and several of the commissioners believed we needed to encourage them to get their business in order. And I’m glad to report that they did with great success," Lilly said.

Lilly had previously decided to withhold about $70,000 worth of new radios as well as $8,500 in county funds from the department, but that decision has been reversed now that the department has reorganized.

Lilly said he had made his initial decision at Johnston's recommendation.

"We weren't going to release that money until we knew where it was going, what it was being used for and who was in charge," Lilly said.

The reorganized department also has new bylaws. Lilly said the community adopted generic bylaws used by other volunteer fire departments, and those bylaws can be amended to fit the individual department.