ODESSA, Texas — The West Odessa Volunteer Fire Unit is use to putting out fires, but there is something their battling these days that has nothing to do with flames.
Instead it has to do with finances and finding the funds to keep their volunteer fire department afloat.
Tuesday the volunteers approached the Ector County Commissioners Court with one goal in mind: convince the commissioners the volunteer fire unit is worth investing in.
If they don't get the needed funding, there may not be a West Odessa Volunteer Fire Unit.
“Every month we have about $5,000 worth of bills going out and we only have $3,500 coming in,” Richard Frederick, WOVFU assistant chief treasurer, said.
The financial woes were passed onto Frederick from the previous two administrations, who were accused of stealing from the department and left the unit in close to $100,000 of debt.
"The last two administrations we had to remove for illegal activities so this third group that comes in you know they knew what they were up against," said Eddy Shelton, Ector County Commissioners for Precinct 1.
"They didn’t know the full extent of how bad their finances were or how bad the reputation was gonna be, but they guaranteed me that they would get in there and fix everything.”
Frederick, who joined the WOVFU in 2018 after taking a ten year sabbatical from the group was not around during those administrations. But rebuilding has not been easy.
“My understanding is people really didn’t know where all the money was going," Frederick said. "The members were kind of left in the dark.”
Frederick has been working on crunching numbers every month to make things work. But without more money coming in, the WOVFD's days are numbered.
“Just by those numbers you can tell we start off with a $2,500 deficit every month," Frederick said. "So we’ve had to cut expenses and one of the services we cut was our phone bill.”
From fixing broken equipment like thermal cameras and breathing apparatuses, to buying uniforms for the new members, to fuel for the fire trucks, it is costly to keep the place equipped how it should be.
Something even more challenging? Convincing the public they can trust WOVFD again.
“It’s a constant battle for us, it breaks your heart," Frederick said. "You’re putting all this time and energy into it and when we go and ask for stuff and you get turned down I mean it does put a damper on things.”
At Tuesday's commissioners court Shelton suggested that the court help them out.
"If they can get the support of the public, maybe get the court to do some matching funds again get them over that hurdle.”
How the court is going to get them over the financial hurdle is still up in the air.
The court asked the volunteers to put together a budget plan that they will finalize with them in July.
In the meantime, if you would like to to donate to the volunteer firefighters you can send donations to this address:
P.O. Box 70107
2757 N Tripp
Odessa, TX 79769
Additionally, the unit is looking for more volunteer firefighters. They currently have 20 members and are working to fill close to 30 spots. For membership information click here.
MORE FROM THIS REPORTER: