Voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly turned down an issue that would have created the Houston Rural Fire District, replacing a membership system with a tax that would go into effect in 2022.

The tally was 564-134, according to unofficial results released by Interim County Clerk Peggy Seyler. About 24 percent of registered voters participated. The turnout in the court-ordered election surpassed the count in April, when it narrowly lost 277-273, according to a recount vote conducted in July.

The issue has been mired in confusion. After the April election, it was ruled by a judge that boundaries for the Houston Rural Fire Association were not clearly defined on the voting books in the spring. A new election was ordered by the judge for Nov. 2. As today’s election neared, ballots for absentees weren’t available by late September. On Oct. 20, Laura Crowley, county clerk, resigned citing health reasons. The next day, Seyler was appointed by the county commission. Since that time, the secretary of state’s office has helped guide the election process, making provisions for military and disabled. Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft was at the Texas County Administrative Center last Thursday to help.

Despite a heavier than expected turnout, votes were quickly tabulated.

The measure on Tuesday’s ballot would have eliminated annual dues in favor of a 30-cent per $100 assessed valuation tax. A simple majority was required for passage. If approved, a board would have been created. The vote was: Erica Kessler (142), Kyle Hale (277) and Harold Bruening (134).

The fire association said the measure was placed on the ballot because membership dues didn’t provide enough revenue to maintain its operations. Many, it noted, didn’t pay the annual fee.

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