Ask the Candidate


Fort Myers Beach Fire District Seat 2

 In preparation for the November 8th election, the Sand Paper will be contacting candidates for select offices with a question regarding a topic of interest to Island residents. This week’s question for the candidates for the Board of Fire Commissioners of the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District, Seat 2:

What are your top two financial or service goals for the Fire District in the next four years?

Ron Fleming’s response:

Elevating our fire departments’ rating to Class 1 is my immediate goal. This achievement will lower the fire insurance rates on every taxable structure within our district without raising Ad Valorem taxes. Class 1 will necessitate the acquisition of a ladder truck to replace the current truck, which is not even recognized by the fire insurance industry. It can be financed for up to 12 years; I recommend 4 years.

My service goal is within 4 years every uniformed first responder of our department shall be trained and certified as ALS medical first responder/water rescue, with the necessary equipment to be mission ready. Currently none are trained, and we have zero boats.

Of the eight fire districts nearest us who are surrounded by water or enjoy miles of coastline, their first responders are trained and equipped for water rescue.
Throughout a major event, unusually high tides, and daily routine we deserve to have our own firefighters responding in boat(s) that are specifically designed for rescue (not a fireboat) for medical emergencies close inshore, bays, mooring fields, canals, and even Estero Boulevard when the island floods. We cannot rely on the sheriff or Coast Guard. Being self-sufficient is indispensable for immediate safety.

Our cash reserves are above 63%. State statute requires 25%. I believe that double this required rate, or 50%, is reasonable. I estimate to successfully accomplish both goals requires $1.1 M from reserves resulting with cash reserves above 52 % in the fourth year.
Safety is significantly improved.
John Pohland’s response:

  1. Pay for trucks and ambulances with borrowed money. Why is this better?

I know how the Fire District can borrow to purchase trucks and pay less than 1% interest. For a $900,000 ladder truck the interest would be $9,000/year or $750/month. Cheap! Then we have to pay it off if we keep it for 20 years. Paying off 1/20th each year is $45,000/year or $3,750/mo. for principal. Add interest and the total amount is $4,500 per month. Each monthly payment reduces the interest due. Why is this better? Our fire district has over taxed for decades, collecting extra money to build a new station. Taxpayers don’t like to pay for future users who will benefit without paying anything.

  1. Reduce operational costs. Servicing and repairs of specialty pumper trucks and ambulances has limited repair centers. Our new Ford ambulances can go to any of 5-10 dealers making them more financially competitive to service. Regular service is done twice as often because reliability is critical. We have stand by equipment. Is this duplication for safety or is it excessive cost? I want to reduce costs of operation and this may help.

Our board has been successful in reducing legal fees from $80,000 to $30,000.

Information Technology capital equipment was quoted at $70,000. We pushed for savings and came in in the low $30’s.

After turning down ambulance trade-ins for $15,000 each, Chief May sold two                   ambulances for $30,000 each. This is how your board has saved taxpayers real money.