Sept. 21, 2020

The Winnsboro city council passed a 17-page budget, removing the Fire Marshall / Health inspector new position and defunding the annual payment for Wood County Fire Marshall.

Councilmember Columbus read aloud an email interaction between himself and the Wood County Fire Marshall, to which The response is that he is not able to respond to requests for building safety checks (fire code inspections) because of his heavy workload. The WCFM covers the entire county. The video showing the email outloud is at 1 hour 30 minutes mark. (Columbus begins speaking at the 1hr. 27 minute mark), at this Facebook previously posted live video by TCR,

Council members Cris Columbus and Joan Morris were praised for responding to citizens emails. Morris held up a stack of 50 emails (pages) to which she responded to, thanking the constituents for their input and heartfelt pleas, particularly for declining the new position of Fire Marshall / Health Inspector. (Her comments begin at the one hour 16 minute mark).

Council member Morris also advocated with Columbus that “now is not the time for the Fire Marshall.” After their pleas and hearing public input, Michael Jaynes also stated that now is probably not the time. It’s been a tough year for everyone.

Morris was the lone dissent on approving the actual budget for the stated reason the budget did not disclose full details, that is it itemizations by department, referring to the scant 17 pages.

TCR noted the budget pages decreased over the last few years.
FY 2020-21: 17 pages
Fy 2019-20: 47 pages
Fy 2018-19: 99 pages
Fy 2017-18: 145 pages
Fy 2016-17: 158 pages
Fy 2015-16: 153 pages
Fy 2014-15: 174 pages

In an email Monday morning , I noted The Winnsboro budget (that passed) was also missing critical components as required by state law. Each council member was sent an email reflecting those items yesterday morning.

The approved budget provides a 2% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA), and a 5% base pay adjustment for the Police Department to bring their compensation more in line with their peers in other communities.

C.G. Willis, Editor
Trails Country Reporter



City of Winnsboro Defunds Wood County Fire Marshall Services 

An Opinion Editorial, C.G. Willis, September 22, 2020

The city of Winnsboro was perhaps too hasty without facts in defunding the Wood County Fire Marshall yearly services contract of roughly $5600 in the 2020-2021 budget MEETING Monday September 21.

Councilman Cris Columbus asked Wood County Fire Marshall Tully Davidson, in an email, a good question but perhaps the wrong question. It can be confusing. The email Columbus read asked about available time for “building inspections and health inspections.”

I don’t believe that is Tully’s job. He does fire inspections, fire investigations and serves as the emergency management safety officer for the County.

I made the informational announcement of the city of Winnsboro defunding the County Fire Marshall at the Commissioner’s Court 9/22/2030 regular meeting, and the quoted the email Columbus read at the council meeting last night. I also offered some ideas for immediate solutions. They were surprised.

I also provided the same solutions info to the Commissioners and to Mayor Wilcox.
TCR is working on obtaining a copy of the Wood County Fire Marshall’s duties, that includes fire extinguisher inspection and fires. Not building inspections; A CITY’s code inspector does building inspections. That’s different than a fire inspection. “Restaurants do get reviewed annually out of Tyler,” one restaurant owner stated.

Davidson covers 696 square miles of Wood County, and keeps a busy schedule.  He was quick to respond to services need for each of the large fires in Winnsboro in the last two years.

Questions Not Asked.

THE CITY made a decision on defunding the County Fire Marshall services without looking at the contract of services agreement in the council meeting. Staff did not present a copy. Did the city review any services document before defunding? Did any council member talk with Commissioner Acker on this topic prior to voting?
Before terminating existing services, were any bid quotes on alternative fire inspection services obtained? Will this impact the city’s ISO rating? That rating effects everyone’s insurance rates.

Too much at the city appears to be presented as verbal and sometimes or apparently not checked out, researched, vetted or documented. The Wood County Fire Marshall was apparently not notified of this possibility to the council meeting, to provide accurate info on his services. Neither was our city’s incoming Fire Chief, as he stated in a social media post he never received a call from staff or council on this topic before last night’s meeting.
The Precinct Commissioner indicated they were not called or contacted or asked about this topic prior to the city council meeting, either, and the repercussions moving forward.


The possible SOLUTION is this: Gather verified intel and work together. Look at the county contract. Talk with Tully (County Fire Marshall) and Commissioner Acker and the city’s Fire Chief at a council meeting.

The solution is simple. Amend the city budget to re-instate the county funding. Or the expenses may be astronomical on a per case basis for FIRE inspections.

I’m sure a solution will be swiftly addressed. As Winnsboro council member Joan Morris stated last night in the council meeting, there’s STILL plenty of time to hold another meeting, 7 days are still available.


If notice is posted tomorrow there could be a meeting in three days (72 hours) to get this budget RIGHT, amended, how about even BALANCING IT, where planned expenses equals planned revenue.  This fiscal year 2020'21 budget sorely lacks full transparency and financial disclosure of a city municipality’s debts obligations and structure, revolving loans, investments, projects, departmental detail as performed in the past.  Additionally, the citizens deserve to know full disclosure of payroll and burden (benefits) for EVERY position.

The citizens deserve to know details, and some of this is covered by state law on budgets.


My personal opinions.

Data is verified.