Firefighters, civic club discuss ending dispute

GOODRICH -- After each side had an opportunity to speak in county commissioners court over the past month, the Holiday Lake Estates Civic Club and Holiday Lake Estates Volunteer Fire Department met to discuss the possible renewal of a lease.

Polk County Judge Sidney Murphy attended the meeting with the hopes of addressing an ongoing problem in Polk County.

“What I’d like for you to think about is where you want to be in 10 years,” Murphy said to a gathering of approximately 40 people. “In 10 years, where do you want to be as a community? I can tell you where you want to be, you want to have your cake and eat it too. You want your civic club, but you want to have a volunteer fire department also.”

Murphy told those in attendance that the decision was theirs to make, but did offer suggestions. The volunteer fire department needs one acre of land. Murphy suggested that everyone in the community pool their resources to purchase what is necessary.
Murphy also suggested the civic club offer a 99-year lease on one acre so the two could remain independent from one another.
“If you find a way to be separate and independent, and allow the volunteer fire department to operate however they choose, that will allow the civic club to proceed as they see fit. Either way, you need both. You want both organizations to be healthy. My hope would be that you start thinking of good positive solutions instead of rehashing.”

The civic club and volunteer fire department have drawn up several leases, none of which have been agreed upon.
Civic Club Chairman Jeff Anderson said the original lease that was signed by he and Fire Chief Bobby Bidwell two years ago had wording that some people, including the club’s attorney, did not like.

The volunteer fire department and civic club are separate entities and the only thing that held the two together was the lease.
One of the leases previously presented was a triple net lease that the fire department refused, and a spokesperson for the fire department said they would never sign.

Anderson said the largest reason for the problems have been insurance.

According to Murphy, a 99-year lease on a one-acre plot of land would solve the problem, allowing the fire departments to operate separately. The civic club would retain ownership of the land if the fire department were to ever dissolve.

At meeting’s end, the volunteer fire department presented Anderson and the civic club with a proposed lease agreement for their review.