Fire Board Adds Protection to Stations

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FMB CERT to Disband

During their workshop meeting on Tuesday morning, the Board of Commissioners of the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District approved the purchase of two additional vehicle exhaust systems for Stations 32 and 33 and the release of emergency funds to meet district costs related to Hurricane Irma.

Fire Chief Matt Love requested the release of funds to cover the district’s hurricane response. The district will apply for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), but payment is not expected to be made quickly. The board approved the request unanimously.

Chair Carol Morris began the meeting by adding an attorney report in which she related that Board Attorney Andrew Salzman informed the board that they could attend a 1:30pm October 9, 2017 court hearing on a requested summary judgement motion in the Darren White lawsuit at the courthouse at 1700 Monroe, Fort Myers, Courtroom 4G.

2017-2018 Meeting Dates

The board discussed a variety of options for meeting places and times before settling on 11 monthly work session 9am meetings to be held at the Beach Library at an estimated cost of $75 per meeting and 10 monthly 6pm board meetings to be held at Town Hall at an estimated cost of $474 per meeting. The evening board meetings would be broadcast and video-recorded. Chief Love will proceed to arrange those meetings and will return to the board with an exact schedule and costs.

The district’s attempts to trade district maintenance of the Town’s fire hydrants with a cost of $20,000 to $28,000 for use of Town Hall for two monthly meetings was turned down by Town Council. Council members indicated they preferred to be paid for use of Town Hall and pay for hydrant maintenance.

The Station 31 training room, which has been used recently for board meetings, suffered water damage and has just been cleared for usage. Board members expressed concerns regarding lack of parking at Station 31, while acknowledging that crews on duty at Station 31 can easily attend meetings there.

After hearing a report from Assistant Chief Ron Martin on the use of the first diesel exhaust remediation system installed in Station 31, the board unanimously approved the proposal to purchase two more systems for Station 32 and 33 at a cost of $69,391.70 plus up to 5% of the original quote for unexpected costs.

Love explained that he would be bringing the purchase of four vehicles to the board for approval later this month. The four vehicles are part of the “catch-up” plan to replace vehicles that were deemed ready for replacement and included vehicles for the fire inspectors, the Assistant Chief of EMS and the Training Chief. The purchase was put out to bid and the low bid came from Tamiami Ford for $177,800.32.

From Boats to Drones

 Commissioner Ron Fleming had requested discussion on five different topics during this work session: Marine Response, Reorganization of Board Officers, Term Limits, Training Firefighters as Certified Inspectors and Drone Operations.

Fleming suggested that the district should own a 16 foot rigid inflatable boat (RIB) in order to be ready to assist in water evacuations in flooding situations. He referenced the frequency that other fire departments use RIB’s to extract residents caught in a flood. He estimated the cost at around $20,000.

Commissioner Ted Schindler and Morris voiced doubt of the need for such a craft, noting that when the island floods, it’s a short-lived event during a storm surge that then flows back out to sea. Schindler also noted the cost would be more likely over $50,000.

Fleming asked about the Coast Guard presence during Hurricane Irma. Love explained that the USCG removed their 29’ boats on Saturday, September 9, the day before Irma’s landfall and returned on Tuesday, September 12. Their 45’ boats went to the USCG St. Petersburg station, leaving on Friday, September 8th, returning on Wednesday September 13th.

Commissioner Larry Wood suggested contacting local marinas to arrange the use of a boat if the need arises. Chief Love will contact area marinas to gather information.

 Training Board Officers and Fire Inspectors

Fleming then suggested that when the board chooses officers next month, they consider that in November 2018, three board seats will be on the ballot, all three currently officers of the board. Fleming suggested that Larry Wood be selected as Chair and himself as Treasurer so that if any of the three did not choose to run or were not re-elected, there would be some experience left on the board. That way, he explained, the new officers would benefit from the experience of the current officers.

Morris suggested she would be open to a co-chair arrangement. She emphasized the amount of effort that is required by the chair.

Commissioner Bob Raymond stated that he had nominated Carol Morris as chair last year and planned to do so again, effectively shutting down further discussion.

Morris went on to squash discussion of term limits stating that the board cannot do it, the governor has to. Chief Love added that he had asked the board attorney about term limits and the attorney told him that while the board could add term limits, the next board could just as easily undo it.

Morris suggested that the place to discuss term limits would be the Florida Association of Special Districts (FASD).

“If you want limits, it would have to be in the state statutes,” said Morris.

Fleming then proposed that the district consider training current firefighters as state certified fire inspectors, to fill the gap between what the district’s current two inspectors can do and the inspections needed.

Assistant Chief Martin explained that the district’s priority for inspections are public assembly properties (about 300), high rise properties, where people are highly reliant on life safety systems and ordinance properties that serve a transient population.

Fleming said that in Ohio, firefighters are also trained as inspectors and handle the lower risk inspections. He proposed that the district consider training current staff to augment the current inspectors or consider whether it’s more cost effective to hire more inspectors.

“Is it cheaper to train 6-9 people than to hire 2 full time people?”

Chief Love concluded that he and his staff would do some research and bring it back to the board.

Flemings request to consider purchase of a drone met a similar fate as the suggestion to buy a boat. The board consensus was that they would like to see information on contracting with a local company for drone work rather than purchase one of their own.

Chief Love officially welcomed Assistant Chief of Operations Scott Wirth to the district. He began work the day before Hurricane Irma arrived. On October 16th, a new Training Chief will begin work with the district.

CERT to Disband

During the Chief’s Report, Love brought the subject of the Citizen Emergency Response Team to the board. Board Attorney Salzman was consulted and told Love that CERT should be 100% under the Fire District umbrella or not at all. If under the district, they must be covered by liability insurance and workmen’s comp insurance.

Love explained that the scope of practice for CERT has changed over time. The current scope for CERT was to provide support during disasters with shelter management and “windshield” surveys. They also participate in community education and events. Some members are also involved in first aid at events, which district paramedics should be doing, according to Love. Insurance will not cover CERT members giving First Aid, he explained.

When asked, Love admitted that the CERT role in Hurricane Irma was not as planned because many CERT members evacuated and weren’t available for shelter management and windshield surveys.

Love suggested that local CERT members work with the Lee County CERT program that helps on a county level, like the fire district’s Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team. “No fire department in our county has their own USAR team, but they all need one, so we share a USAR team.”

When the board consensus was to move the local CERT team to the county level, Chief Love agreed to begin transitioning them to the County group.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the board was informed that the funeral for Battalion Chief Mike Coenen would be at 11am at Beach Baptist Church on Fort Myers Beach.

 

Missy Layfield