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Hamlin VFD and City Council fight over county money

By Jenna Rogers, Reporter, jrogers@ktxs.com
Published On: Jan 03 2014 05:47:52 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 03 2014 07:57:41 PM CST
HAMLIN, Texas -

The Hamlin Volunteer Fire Department doesn't just respond within the city limits. Firefighters are called out to fires and accidents all over Northern Jones County.

Each year, the department receives a reimbursement check for helping out. This year, the check was in the amount of $6,200, which was deposited into the department's account.

City Council, along with the City's Attorney, said that money should go into the general budget instead, citing the public nature of the funds as the basis of their request. The Hamlin VFD has operated as a 501C(3) entity but has not necessarily acted as such. Hamlin Mayor Isaac Castro said that sometimes, communities can fall into a pattern, of "this is how it has always been done."

"It just gets perpetuated until someone at some point asks a question," said Castro. "And so that particular question was asked about whether the funds were properly deposited."

In a public forum, two council members also accused the Hamlin VFD of spending $900 on liquor, throwing around words like "fraud" and "embezzlement." A check the VFD said they have proven does not exist.

Castro said that was a mistake.

"That was rather unfortunate, to make a statement like that because there's no such check," said Castro. "They have every reason to be upset about an unfounded accusation like that."

They were. Although those remarks have since been retracted, several officers have already stepped down from their positions with the Hamlin VFD.

Now, both parties are working on a resolution. Both city council and the VFD have appointed committees to work on the individual frameworks of their terms. Together, they will decide whether the department will operate as a stand alone station or completely as a city entity, making questions of how the funds will be handled in the future, obsolete.

Either way, Hamlin VFD Fire Marshal Gary Clawson is assuring the community that the department will function as usual.

"We're gonna be business as usual anything comes up, any emergencies, we'll handle them just like we always have," said Clawson. "We're gonna negotiate just like any business contract. We'll negotiate with the City our demands and listen to theirs and then hopefully reach an agreement and things can go on like they always have."

"This is a family disagreement," said Castro. "We're going to settle this disagreement. There were some unfortunate things said and that's regretful."

KTXS reached out to several members of the Hamlin VFD for further comment on the situation, but they said they would prefer not to discuss it until that resolution is presented before the Hamlin City Council. That is expected to happen sometime in the next few weeks.