The News Photo/Russell Slaton
Malakoff Elementary School teachers receive applause Nov. 5 for their efforts in securing a 2015 National Blue Ribbon Award from the U.S. Dept. of Education, as part of the school’s National Blue Ribbon Celebration.
By Russell Slaton
The News Correspondent
MALAKOFF–The City of Malakoff has severed ties with the Malakoff Volunteer Fire Department and will rely on outside agencies to provide first-response emergency protection for now, decided Malakoff city council members during Monday, Nov. 9’s monthly meeting, which included a two-hour executive session.
The volunteer fire department (VFD) works under an at-will agreement with the City of Malakoff, which was terminated immediately, said Malakoff’s city attorney, Hank Skelton of Athens. The future of the Malakoff VFD, which was organized in 1949, remains unclear, as does ownership of the fire station and equipment.
The point of contention was response times, with Skelton saying the department lacked the personnel to answer calls. Malakoff’s fire chief, Kirk Kebodeaux, said issues have arisen during weekday working hours, with VFD members working daytime jobs. Those calls have been picked up by other departments.
Kebodeaux said he was trying to address the situation by entering into an automatic aid agreement with a neighboring department, meaning that a single call summoned each VFD.
Kebodeaux also said he had three pending applicants to the 16-member VFD who would be available during daytime hours. The VFD chief also said he was recruiting more members on social media.
The city council’s decision came about a month after Henderson County canceled its contract with the Malakoff VFD. That decision cost the fire department about $10,000 in annual funding from the county, Kebodeaux said.
Kebodeaux said he learned the department had its response areas outside Malakoff split up among neighboring departments after the decision had been made by Henderson County officials. “I was shocked I was not even notified in writing,” he said.
The Malakoff VFD had been limited to calls within the Malakoff city limits, with departments from Log Cabin, Caney City and Trinidad also answering calls. That arrangement with area departments is expected to be expanded to take up Malakoff VFD’s void, Skelton said.
Southside VFD, based in Shady Grove, also announced in a late 2014 mailing that its response area had expanded to include “Malakoff residents” on FM 2636 and FM 3441, along with county roads 1202, 1203, 1211, 1217, 1219, 1220, 1221 and 1309, as well as Crescent Oaks Drive, Fontenot Acres Road and Airstrip Road.
Volunteers comprise 69 percent of firefighters in the United States, according to the National Volunteer Fire council. Membership in the volunteer ranks has declined 12 percent since 1984, the national council states.
Also during the meeting, council members:
• adopted a proclamation honoring Malakoff Elementary School as a National Blue Ribbon School.
• nominated Phil Tucker for a one-year term as the Place 4 representative on the Henderson County Appraisal District board of directors.
• Set Saturday, Nov. 14 as the annual fall citywide cleanup, which lasts from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m.
• appointed Rebecca Ray as city prosecutor for the Malakoff Municipal Court. Municipal Judge Bill Burton said previous prosecutor Daniel Barnes has taken another job in Fort Worth. Ray has been with the county attorney’s office since 2009 and has been a city prosecutor in Payne Springs.
“She is ethical, honest and hard working,” city attorney Skelton said in recommendation, adding: “And one of the few lawyers to get the best of me.”