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Jam-packed meeting for fire commission

By Staff | May 21, 2019

TIFFANY REPECKI Captiva Island Fire Control District Fire Chief Jeff Pawul with the new rescue vehicle, which was a staff SUV that the district repurposed by having it painted and striped with equipment installed.

The Captiva Island Fire Control District’s commission approved the findings of its prior fiscal year’s audit, heard about the firefighter cancer bill and learned of a repurposed apparatus at its meeting.

On May 14, representatives from the firm CliftonLarsonAllen reviewed a draft report of the district’s 2017-2018 audit with Fire Chief Jeff Pawul and Commissioners Sherrill Sims and C.W. Kilgore. Principal CPA Martin Redovan explained that the firm had no findings and had no recommendations.

“The reports are clean,” he said.

However, Redovan pointed out on the financial statements the new way of reporting other post employment benefits, or OPEB. He explained that under a new law, it is required to be recorded as part of the whole liability on the statements, rather than as a “side note” as was the previous method.

“You’ve got to put the financials on the books,” Redovan said of the new rule.

TIFFANY REPECKI Principal CPA Martin Redovan, of the firm CliftonLarsonAllen, and two other representatives go over the findings of the district's 2017-2018 audit with, from right, Captiva Island Fire Control District Commissioners Sherrill Sims and C.W. Kilgore and Fire Chief Jeff Pawul.

As a result, he noted, it shows a long-term liability of about $900,000 – a big increase.

One of the other representatives of the firm reiterated that the change in financial recording does not affect the district’s cash flow or operations, it just means OPEB has to be documented differently.

“There’s no disagreements with management. No other significant issues,” Redovan told the commissioners and Pawul. “There’s nothing of real substance in here that should concern you.”

Asked by Pawul, the firm provided some feedback on building up reserve funds.

“But there’s no hard rules on this,” Redovan said. “Just things to think about and talk through.”

The commission voted 2-0 to accept the financial statements as presented in the audit.

Also during the meeting, Pawul reported that Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed a new bill guaranteeing health care benefits to firefighters diagnosed with certain types of cancer.

“There’s a lot of unanswered questions,” he said of the language.

Pawul explained for the commission that the law provides an alternative to filing for workers’ compensation to cover medical expenses, which is open to challenge and can be difficult to obtain.

Under the new law, which goes into effect July 1, if a firefighter is diagnosed with any of 21 listed cancers in the language, he or she will receive a $25,000 cash payment and his or her entire treatment is covered including copays and deductibles. Currently, most staffers pay the copays and deductibles.

“This comes from each individual district,” he said of the cash payouts. “It is a heavy liability to a district, as a whole, without any state assistance. It’s tough as a district to plan and budget for.”

Pawul also explained that the law covers up to 10 years after termination.

“It’s going to be an impact,” he said.

However, vagueness in the bill’s language has many districts uncertain of its implementation.

“There’s a lot of questions around it,” Pawul said.

Also at the meeting, the commissioners learned that a district SUV had been repurposed as an extra rescue vehicle. It received a new paint job and striping, along with having equipment installed.

“It’s mainly going to be geared toward BLS (basic life support) and marine calls,” he said.

Pawul added that it also may be used for some advanced life support or ALS calls, such as cardiac arrest incidents, which will enable responders to get to a victim quicker to start rescue efforts.

“Just to get closer faster,” he said.

The SUV was expected to be in service by the end of the week.

IN OTHER NEWS

– A special meeting will be held on May 30 at 10 a.m. to elect a replacement for recently retired Commissioner Robert Brace. After 18 years of service, he submitted his resignation in April.

The commissioners are considering two applicants for the seat.

Brace’s term expires in November 2020.

– Pawul reported that he recently learned the district’s code of conduct within the policy manuel no longer contains language prohibiting employees from accepting cash gifts of thanks from the public. It appears the section was left out when the manuel was updated in 2012 and no one seemed to notice.

He asked the commission for its input on whether to amend the policy back to what it was.

After some debate, a decision was tabled until further discussion could be had.

– Pawul informed the commissioners that the union has requested to open its contract, which either party can do every three years for one article within it. The contract expires in a year and a half.

“Just to give you a heads up they opened it,” he said.

– There were 35 incident calls in April, compared to 23 in the same month in 2018.

“So, we are up on a monthly basis,” Pawul said.

– The district conducted 12 inspections in April.