Sunday, December 4, 2022

Lantana Sheriff Contract Can Wait

Dear Residents of Fresh Water District 7,

I wanted to take a few moments to discuss a proposal currently under evaluation that affects ALL residents inside Lantana.  Both boards are evaluating the need to engage in a contract with the Denton County Sheriff’s Department to provide additional peace officer coverage for Lantana.  The District 7 board has been reviewing the merits of the initiative for the past few months and remains concerned about the need for the engagement at this time.  Let me explain . . .

Water boards were enacted by the state legislature to encourage utility & road development in outlying areas around municipalities.  Districts do not have legislative/ executive powers (i.e. cannot enact/ enforce laws).  Districts primary function is to provide fiduciary oversight/ management of the area represented until the district is absorbed/ annexed by a municipality.  Recent changes in voting regulation and debt management have discouraged/ slowed annexations of districts resulting in longer-than-expected life-spans for these entities.  To insure proper law and order was maintained as these districts grew the state legislature included statutes allowing districts to contract additional peace officer presence with local authorities on an ‘as needed’ basis.  Unfortunately the statute did not provide any guidelines defining ‘as needed’.  Determining this ‘need’ remains the central challenge.

The board hales from the position that fiduciary management its core activity and engaging in these types of contracts is outside that general scope of the board.  However, this does not prevent the district from providing a leadership role for such issues where no other jurisdiction exists.  The board has temporarily adopted the following criteria for determining when such action is needed: 1) if involvement is initiated/ driven by a large proportion of residents, or 2) if action or in-action places either the residents or property at risk.  This is the criteria used by District 7 to assess the ‘need’ basis for peace officer coverage.

Over the past few months the board has pulsed the community to get the opinion of the residents.  Surveys have been e-mailed to residents and articles placed at frequented web sites describing the proposal and soliciting opinions.  Participation in these surveys has been proportionally very low and the results inconclusive and even fewer residents have provided any input/ feedback on this mater to the board.

Next the board took steps to evaluate if any danger existed; immediate or impending.  To facilitate this we invited the Denton County Sheriff to meet with the board.  The information provided demonstrated no evidence of a crime problem in Lantana (no violent crime and less than 7% non-violent criminal activity) nor established any lack of coverage by existing services (14 min average response time for calls in Lantana).  During the discussion we also discovered that the Denton County Sheriff’s Department handles all dispatch calls for the local municipalities bordering Lantana (Bartonville, Argyle, and Double Oak).  When asked, the Sheriff confirmed that, in the event the Deputy on duty was unable to respond, officers from these municipalities would be directed to respond.  Based on this information it is difficult to conclude any danger exists or that Lantana is not being properly and sufficiently serviced by the existing coverage.

At this point I hope you can see why the District 7 Board is hesitant to move forward with this contract.  The board does not want to encumber the residents with a costs not clearly justified or clearly aligned with the residents.  In the absence of any imminent danger the residents will have to drive the action.  If you have a strong opinion for either side of the discussion please contact one of your District members

I thank you for your time.

John Rausch
Denton County FWSD #7

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