At their Tuesday bi-monthly meeting, the Board of Fire Commissioners recognized several staff members for retirements and promotions. They also heard a report on the Fire Chief hiring process and learned that the district’s last Fire Chief, Darren White, whose contract was not renewed this fall, has filed a lawsuit against the district.
Four long time district employees were recognized on their retirement: Tom Glover, Ivan Bestrom, Mike May and David Reno. Tom Glover was presented with a fire ax by Acting Chief Tom May while his family looked on. Glover began working for the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District in 1998. The other retirees did not attend the meeting.
New Division Chiefs were also recognized: Fire Marshal Ron Martin and Medical Officer Randy Kraus. Martin began working for the district in 2013. Pinning him was Battalion Chief Dale Reisen of the Estero Fire District. Division Chief Randy Kraus, an 11-year district employee, was pinned by Dr. Joe Lemmons, Medical Director.
Following staff recognition, Chair Carol Morris presented resident George Repetti with flowers and a balloon recognizing his 52nd wedding anniversary. Morris explained that she had planned to present these at the last meeting, but Repetti was not present. Repetti attends meetings regularly during season and often voices criticism of the district’s Fire Prevention Bureau personnel and condo inspections.
During the meeting Morris acknowledged that the district had been served with a summons related to a lawsuit filed by former Fire Chief Darren White. Further details were not available at press time. Earlier this year the district settled a lawsuit by former Chief Michael Becker that included a $34,000 payment by the district’s insurance carrier.
During the Chief’s Report, Acting Chief Tom May commended Truck 33 crew for their efforts to free a trapped osprey from an 11th floor balcony. A resident had praised the district’s response after he had tried several other avenues seeking help. Captain Mike Brown, Engineer Cody Chilson and Firefighter Eric Cook were involved in the rescue.
May also praised the work of Engineer Beers, who devoted approximately 18 hours to rebuilding the extrication compartment on Engine 32 to accommodate new equipment.
He also noted the participation of district staff in Fire Prevention Month, Fright Night, a Mass Casualty Drill held at Page Field and “Hurricane Larry,” a countywide Hurricane drill held last month.
Jim Steffens of JTS Association, the firm hired to conduct the district’s search for a new Fire Chief, presented a report to the board. He explained that the firm has received 38 applications. The application window closes on November 20th. After that date, JTS will screen the candidates to make sure that they meet the minimum requirements the district has set, then check references and experience. Once their initial review is complete, JTS expects to provide a list of the 12-15 most qualified applicants for committee review.
A committee made up of seven people, 2 area Fire Chiefs, a union rep, plus four district citizens, will meet with those applicants December 3 and 4 at the Hampton Inn on Summerlin Road. The meetings will be open to the public to observe only, but there is limited space. The committee is expected to identify 3-5 finalists.
Those finalists will travel to Fort Myers Beach the following week to take part in a tour of the district, a reception to meet district staff and Fire Board interviews at the Tuesday, December 15th meeting.
The board also elected officers, returning all 2015 officers to their positions: Chair-Carol Morris; Vice-Chair-Ted Schindler and Secretary/Treasurer-Bob Raymond.
The meeting closed with Public Input by George Repetti who said that a district representative said in July at a public meeting that there would be a law to inspect “1, 2, 3 family rentals,” within 5 weeks and that hasn’t happened. He complained that Fire Prevention personnel are still doing “busy work, inspecting concrete buildings.” A retired lawyer himself, he suggested the board ask an attorney about the board’s liability for not acting when they’ve recognized a danger.
The next Fire Board meeting will be December 1 at 10am at Town Hall.