During the regular monthly meeting of the Board of Fire Commissioners for the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District on Tuesday, July 18, they observed the swearing in of new Battalion Chief Terry Brunson and discussed the 2017-2018 budget before setting the district’s Truth in Millage (TRIM) tax rate at 2.58.
Terry Brunson has been serving as a Battalion Chief for a couple of months, explained Chief Matthew Love as he spoke of the importance of the “highest rank of people on the line. Battalion Chiefs are responsible for so many people – they carry a huge responsibility. Terry is ready for that responsibility and the position.” Love lauded the promotion. “He is going to be a fantastic Battalion Chief. I don’t just think that, I know that he’ll be an outstanding Battalion Chief since we’ve seen him in action already.”
In the Chief’s Report, Love praised the efforts of Prevention and Life Safety staff and members of the Citizen’s Emergency Response Team (CERT) during the July 4th festivities. He continues to negotiate with Local 1826, District 3 on a collective bargaining agreement. Fire Prevention Specialist Lloyd Adams was recognized for his contribution of an article on fireworks and grill safety for a regional parents magazine.
Love updated the board on efforts to hire staff for two positions. He said they are looking at six semi-finalists for the Executive Assistant Chief of Operations, with testing this week. There are also eight candidates doing video interviews for the training officer position. The district also began the Firefighter/Paramedic hiring process and will create a hiring list from applicants.
June operations reported 240 incidents with 72% of them EMS, 22% Good Intent, 5% Service and 1% Fire. ‘Good Intent ‘includes situations where someone calls 911 and it isn’t actually an emergency. The ‘Service’ category includes calls for help that are not EMS or fire related. Year to date incidents total 1,921. Average response time for all units to arrive at June incidents was 5:48.
Service anniversaries for June included Firefighters Tom Deslaurier – 13 years, Darwin Adames, Oscar Gonzalez and Robert Ponte – all 3 years and Director of Finance and Administrative Services Jane Thompson – 11 years.
A district advisory group has been working on a new district logo and they have a winner! The new logo is the result of 47 different options and was voted on by the group. It will be phased in as new supplies are purchased.
Working with the Town
Love indicated that he has met with Fort Myers Beach Town Manager Roger Hernstadt and a draft 3-year agreement between the two entities will hopefully be presented at the August 14th Fort Myers Beach Town Council meeting. The draft agreement calls for the Fire District to continue to provide maintenance on fire hydrants owned by the Town at no cost to the Town. In return the Town will allow the Fire District to hold two meetings per month in Town Hall chambers. The Fire District will provide their own information technology specialist to operate the broadcast/recording equipment after appropriate training by Town staff. Fire Board meetings were held in Council chambers until January 2016 when they moved to Station 31 after the Town indicated it would begin charging $300 per meeting for use of the space. The Fire District has been providing the legally required maintenance of Town-owned fire hydrants at no cost to the Town for many years.
Chair Carol Morris told the board that the mediation meeting mentioned last month regarding the lawsuit filed by previous Fire Chief Darren White was cancelled. She added that the board’s attorney is trying to have the trial before a judge, while White’s attorney wants a jury trial.
Love provided a budget review to the board based on a tax rate of 2.58, the same as the current year. During last year’s budget process, Love explained his multi-year plan to “catch-up” with capital purchases and salaries and indicated that the tax rate would need to stay at 2.58 for three years to do that. His plan included a projected modest increase in taxable valuation each year. This year’s increase in district taxable value was just over 6%.
The preliminary budget reflected ad valorem district tax income of about $9.7 million, a 6.2% increase over the current year. Love explained that while some expenses cannot be determined quite yet, such as health insurance, the budget includes increases in repair and maintenance costs, capital purchases and debt service. The Designated Fund Balances or ‘reserves’ stay about the same in the proposed budget, totaling approximately $5.5 million.
After realizing that they might not have a quorum at their planned August 1 meeting, the board voted to amend the agenda and then voted 4-0 with Commissioner Larry Wood absent, to set the TRIM rate at 2.58. The rollback rate is 2.4432.
The first Budget Hearing will be held on Thursday, September 14 at 5:05pm at Station 31. The tentative date for the Final Hearing is Thursday, September 28 at 5:05pm. The August 1st board meeting was cancelled. The next regular meeting of the Fire Board is scheduled for Tuesday August 15 at 4pm at Station 31, 3043 Estero Blvd. The earlier start time will accommodate discussion of items that would have been on the August 1 agenda. See www.fmbfire.org for more information.