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County official: Council comments didn’t ‘ruin deal’

By Staff | Apr 30, 2011

Lee County Commissioner John Manning said no agreement was ruined Monday when Cape Coral City Councilmember Marty McClain spoke about work being conducted by the county on city fire vehicles because no written or long-term agreement was in place to begin with.
The county was lending the city a temporary hand, Manning said, much as they do with other municipalities, but was never looking to extensively aid the city because Lee County doesn’t have the capability.
Manning called it “much ado about nothing”, adding that it never was apparent to him that a long-term agreement was going to be possible.
“I’ve not seen anything in writing or verbalized to me that would give anybody that impression,” he said.
Manning said McClain “had nothing to do with it” and that as a body, county commissioners never discussed the issue.
Lee County Fleet Maintenance lost one of its certified emergency vehicle technicians to the Sheriff’s Office this week, according to Manning, and the position will be left vacant, at least for now.
That puts the county at a disadvantage, he said, and makes it tougher for them to handle their own fleet, let along assisting municipalities.
“As I stated before, we’ll assist where we can, just like we would any other municipality, but not in a long-term situation,” he said.
City spokeswoman Connie Barron confirmed that the city of Bonita Springs and Cape Coral mutually reached out to one another to address the issue, and that Bonita has already received at least one truck.
Barron said it is not yet known if the additional 18 pieces of fire equipment that were previously announced as waiting to be scheduled for inspection by Lee County would all be inspected, and that Bonita will assist as needed.
“Not all those pieces of equipment require major repairs,” Barron said.
Councilmember Kevin McGrail said the issue of fire trucks being in disrepair has become political, making the city of Cape Coral look incompetent to other areas of the county, if not the state.
“It’s for political purposes … there’s no advantage in making your city look bad,” McGrail said. “It’s trial by reporter. We look like idiots to our sister communities.”
McGrail said he understands the city manager’s desire to have the city’s fleet maintenance performed by certified emergency vehicle technicians, but he feels city workers have been vilified when funding for that training was cut back years ago.
“We threw out the baby with the bath water on this,” McGrail added.
Manning said he hopes future need is addressed by the governing bodies on both sides of the river.
“In the future, for these things to be more transparent, it should be brought to elected boards on both sides to give us a heads up,” Manning said.
Councilmember Marty McClain, who some blamed for the county’s denial of a longer-term agreement based on questions he asked Monday concerning the county’s performance, said Thursday that he made no derogatory comments and that he had no hand in ruining any agreements.
He said his impression also was Lee County wasn’t interested in a long-term arrangement.
“They had no capability to do this efficiently, that’s what I was told,” McClain said.
Mayor John Sullivan has filed a public records request for emails and other correspondence so he can determine what transpired.
“I really want to know exactly what did happen,” he said Friday.
He added that he did not have first-hand knowledge as to whether comments made by McClain were the reason for the county’s decision not to perform repairs on the trucks remaining in the queue. However, he said the comments made Monday were inappropriate as was McClain’s public chastisement of City Manager Gary King.
“I know that’s not the way I would have done it,” Sullivan said.
Neither Cape Coral Fire Fighter Union President Mark Meurth, nor Assistant Lee County Attorney Holly Schwartz could be reached for comment by press time Friday.