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Volunteer Fire Departments: Politics Affects Entire Communities Safety

Updated on May 20, 2019
Sylvia Mendelsohn, President of the ESD#6.
Sylvia Mendelsohn, President of the ESD#6. | Source

The only recourse the community had was to put someone else in the Commissioner's seat for Precinct 1. With the complacency of the people of Southern Bexar County, the commissioner was and has been allowed to run without accountability.

The County Commissioners as a whole rubber stamped the reappointment of this board, to continue mishandling the taxpayers money.

If the community members continue to be complacent then they have no one to blame but themselves. By writing to the paper, staying informed and informing others, change can come about.

One gentleman was electrocuted the night that funding was cut, another died in a house fire since this began.

The complacent will get trampled on and the amoral individuals will prevail.

Local Politics at it's Worst Affects the Entire Communities Safety

The Emergency Service District #6 board had been publicized in the media since October 31, 2010, when the board President, Sylvia Mendelsohn took it upon herself to close down and cut funding to two area volunteer fire departments, that had been receiving funds from taxpayers after a 2004 campaign to hold elections for establishing the ESD#6 in the southernmost area of Bexar County.

The board ran smoothly in it's inception, then in 2010, a new board president, Sylvia Mendelsohn, was appointed and began to pit firefighters against each other; while also being accused of playing fast and lose with the taxpayer money.

Almost a month to the day she was sworn in as President of the ESD6, Ms. Mendelsohn held a special board meeting to discuss the following:

  • Making any station that might be built, equal to that of the SAFD and maybe specs could be shared in an effort to save money.

  • Possible building site at Loop 1604 and Pleasanton Rd.

  • Putting together a plan for money being held by the district

  • Goal to change ESD from overseeing money to overseeing performance.

Which proved that Ms. Mendelsohn was appointed to the board with an agenda in mind and supported by the County Commissioner that appointed her, Sergio "Chico" Rodriguez.

The year 2015

The years have passed and the complacency of the community members have let Ms. Mendelsohn spend their tax dollars as she saw fit, lending truth to her comment "the people of Southside don't know what's best for them".

The three volunteer fire departments of southeastern Bexar county exist no more; the last remaining fire department, AtaBexar VFD did not shut down, but their contract is with Atascosa County. Ms. Mendelsohn was not able to disband the fire department because it served two counties and it would take an election including both counties to shut them down.

The area fire safety was taken over by ESD#2 firefighters who had no previous experience in fighting fires in sandy areas.

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Facts not Fiction

From an article written On August of 2010, she admitted to the fact that she didn't want the Volunteers to own the fire departments and that the community needed a new fire department that would be attached to a recreation/community/evacuation center. All the research pointed to Ms. Mendelsohn having planned this all along and has used a "technicality" of paperwork issues to achieve the goal of pulling the plug on the fire departments in October 2010.


  • Overnight, she informed the AtaBexar and Sandy Oaks VFD's that they would be cut from the funding and could no longer answer calls in the area. She also made it clear in the newspaper articles and on video footage (news) that she made these decisions on her own and then informed her board. Her decision has put a community of about 145 square miles in danger without qualified fire departments and personnel. That includes a high school, a middle school, a ninth grade academy, an intermediate school, 3 elementary schools, some dozen subdivisions and businesses in the area. Her decision has put the lives of thousands at risk.

Again tipping her hand; just days before she single handedly made the decision to cut their funding, Ms. Mendelsohn held a Special Board Meeting of the ESD6. At this meeting she gained approval from her board to "create"a non-profit, IRS-Tax Exempt corporation called the Emergency Services District #6 Fire and Rescue. Finally making sense of the video footage from her appearance on the 31st of October, at the AtaBexar VFD; where she made comment about wanting to "create" her own ESD.

  • Taking in all this information and one can see that Ms. Mendelsohn had been long planning on removing the Fire Departments and creating one entity. It began in July of 2009 and has been a work in progress since. By naming the organization ESD#6, it gives the appearance of the same organization and by adding Fire & Rescue, is what South Bexar VFD is called. She has incorporated the District and her local fire department into the title. Many in the community felt that there may had been a hidden promise to move South Bexar Fire and Rescue to the new facility once it was completed. If so, this would endanger the southeast portion of the district, extremely and the school district, which has 3 campuses in that region as well as the southwestern portion of the district which like Sandy Oaks is at least 20- 25 minutes away from the South Bexar Fire and Rescue station.

Further adding to the concerns of the community was the fact that Ms. Mendelsohn had been creating a position for a District Fire Chief, as early as July of 2010, when a new Standard Operating Guide was created, in which all the Volunteer Fire Departments would fall under the rules set forth by the ESD#6 and enforced by the District Fire Chief.

  • Bringing that realization to the community when she asked the board to appoint a District Fire Chief; Joe Hearn in early November. Only to call a special board meeting on November 12, 2010, to accept the resignation of the newly appointed District Fire Chief.

  • An open forum was not held at the meeting, Ms. Mendelsohn sighted the fact that the community had had enough time to be heard over the last few days. Like the meeting before when the newly appointed District Fire Chief had awarded a month-to-month contract, without funding, the board once again approved a month-to-month contract while negotiations were underway for a contract, but like prior meetings, Ms. Mendelsohn stuck to the point that "no" funding would be given until she had the required paperwork. As the firefighters attempted to show proof that they had complied with the "paperwork".

The mismanagement of funds created a dilemma for Ms. Mendelsohn because as of August of 2010, the ESD only had $5,205.51 left in their operating fund. The largest sum was in the vehicle payment account, which was enough to make the Sandy Oaks and AtaBexar vehicle payments discussed in the local newspaper. So, with very little money coming in, Ms. Mendelsohn was having to use funds from the vehicle payment account to pay for the expenses of the ESD and would explain why she remained adamant that she would not pay for their salaries, expenses or vehicles. She simply did not have the money to pay them and keep the ESD afloat.


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