Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Update from the Island Fire & EMS Study Group

From Bill Peterson of the Island Fire & EMS Study Group:
Today Englewood was notified on the Island's desire to use Charlotte County for first-responder fire and EMS service.  Talks with the County will start shortly regarding 24/7 staffing at Station 10.  The transition to Charlotte County Fire and EMS (CCFEMS) is under review and will occur no later than January 1, 2015.
Please see Island fire service returning to Charlotte on Page ES5 of February 27, 2014 (article below)

Island fire service returning to Charlotte
   ENGLEWOOD — The Englewood Area Fire Control District decided Wednesday to end fire-protection service to the bridgeless barrier islands.
   District fire commissioners voted unanimously to start transitioning fire-protection services for the Palm Island Resort, along with Knight and Don Pedro islands, to Charlotte County.
   Englewood Fire Chief Scott Lane said the fire district will maintain service until January 2015, when the agreement with the county expires and the transition is completed.
   In 2011, with the support of islanders, Charlotte County commissioners agreed to allow the Englewood fire district to take over fire protection to the islands. The issue first arose after the island’s volunteer department — which had provided island fire protection for decades
   — folded. The county still provides emergency medical service to the islands.
   Lane doesn’t want the fire district to continue to serve the islands from its mainland stations during the operating hours of the Palm Island barges, and overnight with volunteer firefighters. He proposed serving the islands with two paid firefighters 24/7. Lane also called for capital improvements to the island’s fire station and equipment.
   That comes with a cost.
   Islanders pay for fire protection through their county Barrier Island Municipal Service Benefit Unit. The islanders now pay $140.57 per residential unit, 20 cents per square foot for commercial properties, $54.47 for vacant lots, and $11.81 for other undeveloped properties.
   But now, Lane had proposed a $1.03 million budget with island assessments at $760.68 per residential unit, $1.54 per square foot for commercial properties, and $71.91 per vacant lot.
   The decision Wednesday did not come without input from the islanders, represented by the grassroots Fire Study Group.
   “The Fire Study Group networked through each member’s sphere of resident contacts, which has resulted with no indication of anything which would deter the Fire Study Group from initiating conversations with Charlotte County,” a letter to the fire district stated.
   Group member Bill Peterson praised the “top-notch” service islanders have received from the fire district. He told Englewood fire commissioners Wednesday, “This is basically a question of cost advantage to the island.”
   Peterson also said, “In the future, there’s a possibility for other funding options to take care of capital equipment projects that your fire district cannot provide.”
   According to the group’s financial summary, residents also may be expecting a $512 residential assessment from the county, 12 cents more than the county proposed in 2011; and 42 cents per square foot for commercial properties, the same amount proposed in 2011.
   County staff, however, has yet to determine assessments or budgets for fire protection to the islands, Fire/EMS spokeswoman Dee Hawkins-Garland said.
   “We are in the infant stages of discussion,” she said.
   Decisions must be made by April 1, when the county starts its budget process.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Announcing: The Annual Septic Tank Pump-Out!


 have teamed together, once again, to coordinate
septic tank pump outs for septic fields without the aerobic treatment system.

There’s a group forming now
for February/March.

Special price $340 plus a split of the barge fee ($550).
         They can get 4 households per truck = $138 per household

Call Leslie at SOS Septic (473.1767) to get a “batch” appointment.
Or call PIE Environmental Team if you have any questions.
Jim at 697.5848  or  Kjell at 697.5252.
Good septic maintenance will prevent problems down the road.
A crack in the tank can be environmentally disastrous!
Your pump out includes an inspection.

These are recommendations from Dept of Health and SOS Septic:
*      Pump tank every 3-5 years (annually if your house is a rental)
*      Do not use Rid-X or other chemicals in your sinks or toilets

*      Avoid using/or minimal use of bleach in laundry or sinks

Friday, February 14, 2014

Important Notice from Bocilla Utilities

The following notice was recently posted on the back of Bocilla Utilities' customer bills:

Office: 941 -769- 0561

IMPORTANCE NOTICE - For all Bocilla Utilities Customers

Dear Islander,

Starting the middle of February 2014 Bocilla Utilities (BUI) will start flowing water from
Englewood Water District (EWD) into our distribution system. The two potable waters are very similar except for the method of disinfectant. EWD uses chloramines and BUI uses liquid chlorine. There will be mixing of the two water supplies until the booster station (North side of Panama Blvd) is operational sometime in March 2014.

What to expect:

KIDNEY DIALYSIS - Kidney Dialysis users should be aware that the water may contain
chloramines and chlorines until April 2014 and then only chloramines.

AQUARIUM OWNERS - Aquarium owners should use neutralizers that work on chlorine as well as chloramines until April 2014 and then treatment would only be for

BUI employees will be flushing the water distribution system during this transition
period and there may be minor discoloration of the water, some slight chlorine taste or
odor and system pressures may vary a small amount. To view a copy of EWD's 2012
Annual Water Quality Report click the button below. This report describes the source,
treatment and quality of our future water supply.

Starting April 2014 the only thing that will have change is the production of your water. BUI will still be your water utility, your rates will be the same and any question or concerns can be emailed to or you can call the office at (941) 769-0561.

Bocilla Utilities is committed to providing you with a safe and dependable supply of drinking water.

R. Craig Noden

Sunday, February 2, 2014

1.28.2014 Fire & EMS Study Group Community Meeting

On Tuesday morning the Island Fire & EMS Study Group hosted a community meeting as a follow-up to the presentation by Chief Scott Lane of Englewood Fire District on 1.11.2014. Members of the committee in attendance were Bob Madden, Rick Brunett, Bill Peterson, Linda Cotherman and Dick Sadenwater. 47 Island stakeholders attended the meeting.

The Research
Rick gave a re-cap of Chief Lane’s presentation on the 11th: his plan is to staff Station 10 full-time with firefighter/EMTs, upgrade the fire protection equipment and remodel the fire station. The Chief had presented budget figures based on 1,454 residential units. After confirming with the property tax appraiser’s office, that number was downgraded to 1,064 (633 residential and 404 vacant lots). 
On January 15th, Bill Peterson attended the EFD Commissioners’ meeting, where Island service was discussed.  Bill reported that 3 of the commissioners publicly stated that they would not support anything but a 24/7 manned Station 10 and would not supply part-time firefighters. After the meeting 2 additional commissioners said privately that they concur.
Dick Sadenwater reported that he met and spoke with County Commissioner Bill Truex. The commissioner spoke generally of his support of the Island, and that he would present any reasonable proposals from the Island to the County Commission.
The committee looked at Little Gasparilla to explore a self-funding model for fire protection.  However, the committee found the idea impractical for the Island, with legal complexities involved with establishing the independent station.
The committee was clear that any proposal going forward, either from EFD or Charlotte County, would involve professional fire services 24/7 at Station 10 on the Island.

The Numbers
The committee stated that they have solid information from both EFD and Charlotte County regarding the tax estimates for fire service. The County has a lower tax rate for residential and commercial, and EFD has a lower rate for residential vacant lots. The estimates are “like and similar” for comparison purposes.

Present tax rates
EFD original proposal
EFD revised proposal
Charlotte County
Residential Unit
Capital Cost per Res. Unit
$206.70 per year/5 years
Vacant Lot
Capital Cost per Vacant Lot
est. $11.10
est $19.54
Undeveloped Vacant Lots
Captial cost per undeveloped
Commercial & Multi-Unit
$0.20/sq ft
Capital cost per commercial
0.00/sq. ft.
$0.24/sq. ft.
$0.42/sq. ft.

The Options
Generally, Station 10 gets 30-40 calls a year, the majority of which are medical. The difference between Emergency Medical Services (provided by Emergency Medical Technicians) and Advanced Life Support (provided by paramedics) was explained.  EMT’s are usually first on-scene and stabilize the injured while waiting for a paramedic.  Paramedics have more medical training and are authorized to use narcotics. The County currently provides paramedic and ambulance/transport services. 
The committee spoke with the Assistant County Administrator, since the County fire department reports to her office.  She said that since Island coverage has not been a County issue for 2 years, she needed to be brought up to speed but indicated that Charlotte County might be willing to re-examine the options.  
When asked if it were possible to have more community input to the capital expenditures, she explained that all County buildings are subject to a maintenance schedule, so the list of improvements to the fire station would probably be similar to EFD. 
However, there could be a difference in the approach to the equipment expenditure. EFD proposes spending $420k for a new engine. The new engine would be foam-capable, which reduces the amount of water needed to fight fires. 
Presently the County owns all of the fire equipment at Station 10, which is solely for use on the Island.  The County maintains this equipment (using funds from the MSBU), and they estimate the expected remaining life of the existing equipment is a minimum of 8 years.
Charlotte County is outfitting all of their fire stations on the mainland with ALS engines, with at least one “fire/medic” (firefighters who are certified paramedics) per station. These engines are fully equipped for emergency medical treatment. Having Charlotte County as provider opens the possibility of having an ALS engine and upgrading to FF/medics. The cost of the service upgrade might not involve a substantial rate increase.

The Comparison
Both EFD and Charlotte county want 24/7 Island-based fire protection. EFD wants more capital equipment expenditures right away.  EFD stated that they believe a 24-hour barge service would be of no value.  Charlotte County indicated that 24-barge service would offer some supplementary benefit.
Englewood has no plan to upgrade to ALS engines at each station. They will continue to serve with firefighter/EMTs. Charlotte County offers the possibility of an ALS engine on the Island, with at least one firefighter/medic per shift.

The Opinions
Having the most experience with both, the committee was then asked their personal opinions as to which way they would go.  Generally they conveyed seeing more opportunity for better value with Charlotte County, although some expressed a need for more information before jumping on board.  Freed from his committee obligation of neutrality, one member said that “I feel that long term the County would be more open to considering or valuing the choices of the residents on the Island.”

The Conclusion
At that point, the committee resumed their official hats and took a straw poll of the attendees.  With a show of hands, the audience supported forward motion in the direction of Charlotte County.  The committee will also make efforts to conduct an electronic survey for more community input.
The committee was asked about the process to get a consensus and move forward. They said that the County is actually the default position: if we do nothing EFD will cancel the contract come 4/1. It was generally agreed to move forward sooner than later, to start negotiations with Charlotte County and let them know what the residents want.
When asked, the committee agreed to continue on and to interface with both EFD & CC to arrive at the best level of service for the MSBU tax dollar.