Fire Board Adjusts Chief Interviews

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At their first December Fire Board meeting, the Board of Fire Commissioners of the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District agreed to push back the final candidate interviews and the selection of a new Fire Chief until their January 5th meeting, that they decided should take place in Town Hall.

According to JTS Association, the firm hired to conduct the search, forty candidates submitted applications for the position. After JTS sorted through the applicants checking education, qualifications and references, they chose 15 semi-finalists to invite to the district. Thirteen of those candidates have indicated that they will come to the district for preliminary interviews on December 3rd and 4th. Part of the selection process is meeting with a committee of district residents, along with a district employee and two area fire chiefs.

The community review committee is made up of district residents Tim Cherry, President of FMB Youth Soccer; Maureen Rischitelli, Director of Administrative Services for the Town of Fort Myers Beach; Al Durrett owner of Fish Tale Marina and Santini Marina Plaza; John Lallo, owner of Pete’s Time Out and Vice President of the Time Square Merchant and Event Association; Fire Captain John Duncan, President of Local 1826 plus two area Fire Chiefs – Kingman Schuldt (Greater Naples) and William Lombardo (South Trail).

This review committee will meet with each candidate and then hold discussions to select the top 3-5 finalists. Those finalists will be invited back to the district for the final selection process. After JTS urged the board to bump this final interview visit to January so as not to impose on the candidates during the holiday season, they agreed to hold final interviews at their regular meeting on January 5th at 10am. Candidates will be involved in district tours and meet and greet activities with district personnel plus meetings with each individual commissioner on Monday, January 4th.

Short Term Rental Ordinance

Division Chief Ron Martin presented the board with the 6th version of a proposed Fire Safety Short Term Rental ordinance. The ordinance addresses 1-2 family homes that are not owner-occupied for at least 6 months of the year and are used for transient, vacation or short-term rentals.

The ordinance calls for registration of the owner and local responsible party of these properties with the Fire District plus regular Fire Life Safety inspections. It also calls for clear address posting (minimum 6” numbers).

Chair Carol Morris offered several suggestions regarding verbiage changes while John Pohland objected to the use of the term transient.

Capt. Martin explained, “Transient is defined as any occupancy that is advertised to the public for a period of 30 days or less. It’s very clearly defined.”

Martin will bring the ordinance back to the board again with more suggested changes, but he did explain that when it’s ready, the board would have to hold two publicly noticed meetings before a vote to approve the ordinance. When a final draft is ready, it is expected to be available on the district’s website and at their administration offices on Voorhis St.

Estero Blvd Response Plan

Acting Chief Tom May told the board that district administration has been working on an Estero Blvd Response Plan after reviewing response times and looking at the ongoing project expected to last 5-10 years.

“With season starting in January, we are looking at potential problems with getting district emergency vehicles through traffic and met with Kaye Molnar of Cella Molnar (spokesperson for the project), Eric Schneider, Project Manager with Chris Tel Construction and Rob Phelan of Lee County Department of Transportation looking for a way to make way for our emergency vehicles.”

May asked the board to fund an alternative response vehicle (ARV) that could be used to quickly reach people with an emergency medical situation, treat and transport them to a waiting ambulance for transport to a hospital. He added that this ARV would be used for special events and seasonal coverage in the district.

When Pohland asked why the CERT vehicle could not be used, May explained that it is not big enough to hold a stretcher. Division Chief Randy Kraus added that he has spoken with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and they use similar vehicles and are willing to loan the district one, but need it themselves as soon as season begins. He also addressed response times.

“We looked at average response time from June-November…travel time has increased and 15.5% of calls are now taking more than the optimum limit of 8 minutes.”

Morris said she thought that Lee County should pay for the ARV and urged the district to attend county meetings and tell them so.

“Has anyone brought this to the county because they are causing this problem?”

May said that Commissioner Bob Raymond, absent this meeting, had agreed to speak with County Commissioner Larry Kiker about the problem, but he urged the Fire Board to act.

“You have a fiduciary duty to citizens to provide services. Our recommendation is to provide an ARV to respond to calls for service.”

Kraus agreed, “We’re coming to you today to tell you and we know it’s short notice, but now that we’re aware of the problem, we have to take care of it. We just don’t have anything to compare with what’s going to happen (with traffic congestion and seasonal traffic without the center turn/emergency lane).”

Morris suggested approaching Wal-Mart to hold a fundraiser outside their store for the $26,000-$35,000 cost of an ARV as she’s seen other district’s do.

The board opted to not take any action on the ARV purchase and will discuss at their next meeting.

In other business, the hiring of 6 new employees was approved.

The next meeting of the Fire Board will be December 15th at 6pm at Town Hall.

Missy Layfield