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Fire commission OKs tentative not-to-exceed millage rate

By Staff | Jul 23, 2019

PHOTO PROVIDED At its July meeting, the Sanibel Fire and Rescue District's commission approved donating the district's surplus, 1996 Pierce Saber pumper to the Estiffanulga Volunteer Fire Department.

At its monthly meeting, the Sanibel Fire and Rescue District’s commission capped its tax rate at its current level and set the budget hearings, as well as approved donating the district’s old truck.

On July 10, the commissioners voted unanimously 3-0 to adopt a resolution that establishes the tentative millage rate for fiscal year 2019-2020 as 1.1089 – the same rate as for 2018-2019. The rate can be lowered as the budget process proceeds but cannot be raised. The proposed not-to-exceed rate would result in a tax increase of 1.09 percent to residents of the district, according to officials.

The first budget hearing will take place on Sept. 4 at 5:01 p.m., with the second and final hearing scheduled for Sept. 11 at 5:01 p.m. Both will be held at Station 171, at 2351 Palm Ridge Road.

Also during the meeting, the commission voted 3-0 to approve a resolution to proceed with the donation of the district’s surplus, 1996 Pierce Saber pumper to the Liberty County Board of County Commissioners for use by the Estiffanulga Volunteer Fire Department, which is unincorporated.

Sanibel Fire Chief Matt Scott had previously proposed the idea of donating the apparatus to a department or district in the Florida Panhandle that had been impacted by Hurricane Michael. The commissioners gave him the green light after learning the truck would yield little for a payout.

TIFFANY REPECKI Sanibel Fire and Rescue District Fire Chief Matt Scott, left, and Commissioners Bruce Cochrane, Jerry Meuch and Richard McCurry read over a resolution on the tentative not-to-exceed millage rate for fiscal year 2019-2020 with Administrator Mary Hickey, right.

At last month’s meeting, Scott reported that the Liberty County fire coordinator had responded to the offer, speaking on behalf of Estiffanulga. The unincorporated community has a volunteer fire department with an annual budget of $15,000. Its fire station and engine were damaged in the storm.

“They’re newest engine is over 40 years old,” he said at the June meeting.

The commissioners voiced support for the move and directed Scott to bring back a resolution.

Also at the recent meeting, the commission received an update on the union negotiations.

John Reitenback, IAFF Local 1826’s DVP for District 17 – Sanibel – was in attendance. He reported that the union and district staff had met three times. The next meeting was set for July 23.

Also, a member of the fire boat committee provided an update on the status quo. He told the commissioners that the group had received schematics from five potential boat manufacturers based upon the provided specifications. They were waiting for the same from two more companies.

“So the committee will have a total of seven to look at,” he said.

Aimed for inclusion in the fiscal year 2019-2020 budget, the new boat will replace the district’s current vessel. The existing boat, a 1997 model, was a “demo” that was bought used in fiscal year 2010-2011.

The district is tentatively set to receive a $150,000 grant from the West Coast Inland Navigation District grant, which the district will match with $150,000. Assistant Fire Chief William Briscoe noted that the total $300,000 will be available, but the district does not expect to spend all of the funds.

Administrator Mary Hickey told the commissioners that the district’s audit was complete.

“We’re financially stable,” she said, adding that they were no problematic findings.

Also during the meeting, Training Officer Capt. Tim Barrett provided an update on training. He reported that pediatric training has been ongoing, while special operations has been focused on open water swim training, more specifically on using the rescue boards efficiently in water incidents.

“And getting out there as quickly as possible,” Barrett said of reaching potential victims.

He attributed the success of the recent Turner Beach rescue to training.

Barrett also told the commission that two new Phoenix Awards will be handed out.

“We give them to our guys when they get there and make a positive outcome on a cardiac arrest (incident),” he said.

The awards are handed out at the district’s annual ceremony at the end of the year.


– Briscoe reported that the new, replacement radio tower is hooked up and operational.

– The district responded to 121 calls for service in June, as compared to 127 calls during the same month last year. The year-over-year comparison numbers to date are down by 30 for this year.

“I’m sure we’ll catch up at some point,” Briscoe said.