HENDERSON COUNTY–Commissioners’ Court of Henderson County voted April 26 to proclaim May 4 as Firefighter Appreciation Day, which also will be observed that day worldwide as International Firefighters’ Day.
The proclamation states, “Brave firefighters all across Henderson County protect the life and property of our residents with fire response, medical emergencies, fire prevention, code enforcement and public fire safety education.”
The proclamation continues, “Firefighters must retain their composure in a variety of emergency situations while fulfilling requirements to perform the task at hand, no matter how routine, complex or dangerous.”
Bill Sekel of the Athens chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution read a list of early American firefighters, many of whom were Founding Fathers and future presidents. Sekel said the first recorded female firefighter in America was Molly Williams, a Black woman and slave who fought fires in 1818 wearing a calico dress and checkered apron. Fifteen-year-old Lilly Hitchcock of San Francisco was another early female firefighter, recounted Sekel. Before 1850, Sekel said, no American city had fully paid full-time firefighters.
“I am the son of a professional firefighter and I can tell you from a very close perspective that it takes a very special person to put on a suit that can withstand 2200 degrees and go to work,” Sekel said.
Said Precinct 3 Commissioner Chuck McHam, “A lot of times it’s a thankless job, we don’t think about them until we need them.”
Added Precinct 2 Commissioner Scott Tuley, “It’s kind of like a mechanic, you don’t want one until you need one. And when you need a fireman, an emergency response, you need them right then. Hats off to our volunteers and all our first responders in our county.”
The court also approved an interlocal agreement with Montgomery County for the detention of juvenile offenders. Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Blu Nicholson told the court that “it’s increasingly difficult to find beds for our juvenile defenders” and would like to have Montgomery County on backup in case the county needs more space.
Currently, Henderson County juveniles are housed in Van Zandt and Gregg counties, Nicholson said, “but it’s getting more difficult.” Smith County has not opened back up since the pandemic, which has decreased the available number of beds for Henderson County juvenile offenders because Henderson County used Smith County “quite frequently,” Nicholson said, adding that Smith County doesn’t appear to plan on opening up to outside contracts anytime soon.
Henderson County also has contracts for housing juvenile offenders with Grayson, Hays and Harrison counties, Nicholson said, adding that he’s also reaching out to Lubbock County “just in case we get in a bind and need a bed, which happens quite often.”
The demand has increased and supply has decreased because of the coronavirus pandemic, McKinney said, adding the county tries to keep juvenile offenders “as local as we can.” Nicholson said Henderson County will not be charged by Montgomery County unless Henderson County uses space for a juvenile offender.
The court also approved a resolution for the allocation of the county’s coronavirus state and local fiscal recovery funds for lost revenue. Henderson County has received $16,070,692 in coronavirus state and local fiscal recovery funds and are able to allocate $10 million to revenue loss, said County Grants Coordinator Jessica Brown.
McKinney said this is the required first step in “having it allocated for the proper purposes.”
In other business, the court:
• Approved appointing Ronnie Gold to the Emergency Services District (ESD) No. 10 Board of Commissioners for an unexpired term to end Dec. 31, 2023, located in Precinct 2.
• Approved the release of a request for proposals for surveillance and security systems for county buildings.
• Approved the payment of fiscal year 2022 bills in the amount of $217,464.93.