Fire Fee Assessment Has Not Saved Them Completely
By Ben Smell – Special correspondent for the Lehigh Acres Gazette
Will the Fire Commissioners put it on the backs of the poor and medium class again Lehigh Acres because fire assessment fee has not saved the fire department completely?
The Lehigh Acres Fire Department is continually using reserve money even with the fire assessment …. when will all the money be gone?
In the past 2.5 years, the fire department purchased 2 new fire trucks, 5 new ambulances, equipment to build a new Brush truck, and a new Battalion Chief SUV almost all out of unassigned reserved funds.
Now three of the new ambulances have 50 to 75 thousand miles on them already and will need to be replaced or retrofitted in four to five years due to high mileage and the cost of future maintenance.
According to Fire Chief Robert Dilallo the fire district in great need of five new staff vehicles, protective clothing (AKA structural bunker gear and bush gear), a better website and other things, Dilallo told the Fire Commissioners they are going to have to make some tough choices in the months ahead.
Because of the wants and not the needs of the district are being met the district may become financially poor. The Commissioners will have to lease or finance equipment and most likely mortgage the department to build two new stations and the possibility of that mortgaged money to be used to remodel or retrofit of stations 101 and 103.
Dilallo told the commissioner during the workshop that a resolution to raise the fire fee assessment fee 4.1% will be on the agenda on the next fire board meeting on the 25th of July.
Dilallo told the Commissioners during the workshop that the 4.1 % raise will only bring but $500,000.
Fire Commissioner Anderson told the board at the workshop last week he would not vote for the raise to the assessment.
Anderson reminded the Board that the Commissioners have not reviewed ambulance fees since 2013 and current user fees numbers since 2012. User fees can be used to help recoup some of the lost revenue during major events such as bushfires, traffic accidents and EMS transfers outside the district. Anderson believes that the added and modified user fees can generate between $500,000 and $1 million dollars easily.
On the hand, Commissioner Carter recommended going to a “stand-by readiness” approach as a way to get more money from those who own vacant lots in the community of Lehigh Acres. Carter believes that this approach would bring in more 9 million extra dollars to the district.
According to two different Google internet searches “stand-by readiness” has been implemented by a few fire department in Florida but have come with a higher cost of legal and costly challenges as user fee have not.
The next regular monthly scheduled meeting of the Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District will be held on July 25, 2017, and will begin at 5:00 p.m. The meeting will be held at Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District, Station 104, 3102 16th St SW, Lehigh Acres, FL 33976.