Monday, May 19, 2014

Proposed rates from Charlotte County for fire protection MSBU

Reprinted from the Englewood Sun:

Charlotte to review Knight-Don Pedro fire rates
By STEVE REILLY
   STAFF WRITER
   MURDOCK — Charlotte County commissioners on Tuesday will consider what to assess Knight and Pedro islanders for fire protection services.
   County staff is proposing island homeowners pay a municipal service benefit unit assessment of $509.42, 66 cents per square-foot for commercial properties and $216.96 for “vacant lot-accessible” property. The commissioners will consider the rates at a 1:30 p.m. budget workshop Tuesday.
   The proposed assessments are slightly lower for homeowners and slightly higher for commercial property owners than what the county proposed in 2011.
   Once county commissioners set a ceiling for the proposed 2014-15 MSBU assessment rate, they do have the option of adopting lower rates at a public hearing in the fall.
   Since 2011, the Englewood Area Fire Control District has provided fire protection on the bridgeless Knight and Don Pedro Islands. The fire district serves the islands from its mainland stations during the operating hours of the Palm Island Transit barges and with volunteer firefighters during the off hours.
   However, that was no longer an acceptable arrangement for Englewood Fire Chief Scott Lane, who wanted to staff the island firehouse with paid professional firefighters around the clock and to make capital improvements on the island firehouse and replace equipment.
   Lane proposed island MSBU assessments of $760.68 per residential unit, and $1.54 per square foot for commercial properties. Islanders then decided to turn to the county for fire protection.
   The islanders had been paying the fire district $140.57 per residential unit, 20 cents per square foot for commercialproperties, $54.47 for vacant lots and $11.81 for other undeveloped properties.
   Originally, the islanders were served by a volunteer fire department, but it folded and islanders sought help from the Englewood fire district and Charlotte County.
   In 2011, former Charlotte County Fire Chief Dennis DiDio recommended staffing the island full time with paid firefighters. He proposed MSBU assessments of $511.88 for residential properties, and 42 cents per square foot for Palm Island Resort and other commercial properties.
   Islanders turned the county down, preferring the more economical rates from the fire district. But now they are ready for the county to provide fire service.
   In February, Bill Peterson, an island resident representing the island’s Fire Study Group, told fire district officials how islanders praised the “top-notch” service they received from the fire district, but they were going to the county for a cost advantage.
   Whatever the assessments, Englewood fire district officials expect to turn over fire protection to the county at the end of the year.
   Email: reilly@sun-herald.com