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Fire chief lays out options for new cancer bill

By Staff | Jun 18, 2019

TIFFANY REPECKI Captiva Island Fire Control District Fire Chief Jeff Pawul, left, talks about the district's options for addressing the recently passed firefighter cancer bill with commissioners at the June meeting.

The Captiva Island Fire Control District’s commission discussed ways to financially address the recently passed firefighter cancer bill, as well as covered the early property tax valuations.

At the June 11 meeting, Fire Chief Jeff Pawul explained that the district has two methods for approaching the bill, which goes into effect on July 1. He reported that funding can be set aside in a reserve line item on the budget or a type of insurance policy can be set up to cover any costs.

Under the new law, firefighters diagnosed with any of the 21 cancers listed in the bill will receive a $25,000 cash payment and their treatment is covered, including copays and deductibles. The $25,000 will be covered solely by fire districts or departments – no financial assistance from the state. While most districts cover the treatment, many firefighters currently pay their own copays and deductibles.

“It’s going to happen at some point,” Pawul said of a diagnosis. “It’s really, as a district, how do we want to fund this program?”

He explained that he has been speaking with insurance companies to go over any options.

“I don’t have a vendor who’s 100 percent on board,” Pawul said.

He reported that other states have similar laws in place, so a precedent exists on how this works. However, Florida is new to this so many insurance companies are still trying to figure out the details. Pawul added that he has been reaching out to companies in those other states that offer policies.

He explained to the commission that Aflac offers a plan that covers everything the district would require, but it recently set a 25 employee minimum for eligibility – which Captiva does not meet.

Commissioner Jeffrey Brown asked if the costs to a district for one person is known.

“The $25,000 is the only known number at this point,” Pawul said.

Also at the meeting, the chief noted that the commission needs to start looking at possible dates in September for its budget hearings. He is expecting to present some options at the July meeting.

“We basically had a 0 percent increase,” Pawul said of the early tax roll valuations.

He added that he does not expect to see any drastic change in the final approved numbers.

“July and June’s numbers the last three years have been very very close,” Pawul said.

Also during the meeting, the chief told the commissioners about a conversation between him and officials at the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and asked for feedback. The LCSO expressed an interest in moving its team out of its current office and into space at the fire headquarters to be more visible.

“This is a visible office space to bring them into a community setting,” Pawul said.

“I thought it might be a good thing for the community,” he added.

The commission raised several questions about if the office would be rented, if there is enough available parking to accommodate additional vehicles and if the LCSO would share the facilities, such as the showers. Logistics and concern over changes in the station’s dynamics were also debated.

Pawul noted that he questioned if there would need to be a change to the district’s insurance policy for law enforcement. He reached out to the district’s insurance company and was waiting to hear back.

After some discussion, it was decided that the chief would talk to his firefighters about what their thoughts and opinions are on the idea, as well as get a clear answer from the insurance company. Also, Pawul would follow up with officials at the LCSO to see what its Captiva crew thinks of the idea.

“We need more input,” Commissioner C.W. Kilgore said.


– Pawul reported that the district is continuing to do more advanced training on the boat, like GPS, night training, and search and rescue.

“We are still doing a lot of extra marine training,” he said.

– There were 35 incident calls in May, compared to 38 in the same month in 2018.

“Year over year, we’re about eight calls to-date apart,” Pawul said.

– He reported that the district started its annual commercial inspections last month.