The Fort Myers Beach Fire Department swore in four new firefighters at its monthly Board meeting in Council Chambers at Town Hall on Wednesday evening, June 26. Chambers was full to near capacity with family members, Fire Department Commissioners, and many current firefighters to witness Keith Gaudet, Kevin Hernandez, Nicholas Lorenzo and Ivan Rojo officially join their team!
“We are here tonight to celebrate our new firefighter class with our community and your fellow staff members,” said Chief Matthew Love. “It is important that your families are here, because their support will be tremendously important to you, as encouragement from home is just as crucial to your success as that from your firefighter family, and know that we are here to take care of them just as much as we will you.
After swearing them in, Love had a family member for each come forward to pin on their new firefighter badge. “You have gone through a long process to get here, between training and classes and your one-year job internship, so after the ceremony, we will take a short break to celebrate with cake, as we have a lot of little ones in the room – that is why my two young kids are here tonight!”
Under “New Business,” Chief Love presented Fire Commissioners a “Water Quality Draft Letter” for State of Florida Senators and Congressmen. Commissioner Jacki Liszak, who is the Executive Director of the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce and a Clean Water Movement leader, stated, “It is imperative the Fire Department and our island community maintain our momentum in this. We made great progress in the last year, with a groundswell from government, private citizens and all organizations who threw all their weight behind this because water is everything, from what we pump on a fire to if our firefighters need to jump in the water to save someone, so it is crucial that our water quality is good! I encourage our sister Fire Departments to join us in this.”
“Congratulations to Jacki for bringing this up,” said Vice Chair Ron Fleming. “Governor Ron DeSantis must be on this list. We tried to get other local Fire Departments to join us last year but the turnout was disappointing, though those that did were supportive.” “I am happy to assist with this effort,” replied Liszak. “Whatever it takes! In one year’s time, the Clean Water Movement has come leaps and bounds. Can we work together?” Fleming agreed to do so. Chief Love volunteered to assist as well, and will provide an updated draft for the July Board Meeting, with contacts for other local Fire Departments.
Preliminary Capital Budget
Chief Love gave the Fire Commissioners an extraordinarily thorough preview of the 2019-20 Fire Department Fiscal Year Capital Budget. “This is only the Capital Budget,” he cautioned the Fire Commissioners. “Next month we will review the General Budget, then at the September meeting, we will present the entire budget to the community. We actually start the budget process in January because there is a lot of planning to do.”
Complicating matters is the preliminary District Property Values predicts the Fire District jurisdiction will receive a miniscule 1.68% growth rate “because our community is mostly built out,” he explained, “unlike many inland communities that are still expanding and growing by roughly 10%. We do expect a tax increase of approximately $168,000 but healthcare will increase by roughly $78,000 and Cost of Living Adjustment by about $68,000 so those funds will go quick. As a result, I am actually working on some budget cuts. This means our next Work Session will not be short, as we set the Truth In Millage (TRIM) Rate. Keep in mind that when you establish the TRIM Rate, you can always lower that but you cannot increase it.”
The Fire Department Board Meeting adjourned at 7:15 p.m.; its next Work Session is on Wednesday, July 10, at the Fort Myers Beach Library Community Room at 9:30 a.m.; the next Board Meeting in Town Hall is Wednesday, July 24, at 6 p.m.
By Gary Mooney