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
By STEVE REILLY
   STAFF WRITER
   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.
   Email: reilly@sun-herald.com 

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