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Captiva fire commissioners OK tentative millage rate

By Staff | Jul 21, 2020

TIFFANY REPECKI The Captiva Island Fire Control District's commissioners approved the purchase of new mobile and portable radios for the district so it is in compliance with Lee County's radio network upgrade.

The Captiva Island Fire Control District’s commission approved the not-to-exceed millage rate and budget hearings for fiscal year 2020-2021, as well as discussed the draft budget being proposed.

At the July 14 meeting, the commissioners voted unanimously 3-0 to approve the proposed operating millage rate of 1.754 mills, which is 0.78 percent greater than the rolled-back rate of 1.7405 mills.

Once set, the millage rate can be lowered during the budget process but not raised.

“We can always go down. We can’t go up,” Fire Chief Jeff Pawul told the commission.

The gross taxable value for the district from the Lee County Property Appraiser is $1,508,437,106.

“I think we can get a lot of things accomplished,” he said of the budget.

The first budget hearing will be held on Sept. 10 at 5:01 p.m., following the monthly meeting.

The second and final budget hearing is tentatively set for Sept. 24 at 5:01 p.m.

During a brief discussion of the budget, Pawul explained that the district has been talking for a few years about implementing pay raises for employees. He is proposing a restructured plan for next year.

“I’ve done it basically across the step plan,” Pawul said, referring to the position tiers.

“To get us more in line with industry standards,” he added.

Pawul outlined his phased approach to do so. The first year would entail raising the base pay. The following year he would incorporate incentive pay for staffers who obtain degrees and certifications, which the district currently does not offer. The third year would include another smaller pay raise.

“We have firefighters starting out at $5,000 a year less than teachers are starting out,” he noted.

Commissioner Jeffrey Brown asked where the plan would place the district in the county’s market.

“Hopefully, we can get closer to a median-type pay range for an ALS department,” Pawul said.

As an example, he explained that the starting pay at the Captiva district is about $51,000 compared to about $65,000 at the Sanibel fire district – just down the road – which also offers incentive pay.

“I don’t think we can accomplish it all in one year,” Pawul said of why it is a phased plan.

He also established a $50,000 line item in reserves in light of Florida’s new firefighter cancer law and adjusted the unassigned fund balance reserves up to the 20 percent range, versus about 18 percent.

“I increased our reserves again because we had that talk at audit time,” Pawul said.

“And we’re still in pretty good shape,” he added.

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.

Also at the meeting, the commission voted 3-0 to approve a new contract with Dr. Benjamin Abo for him to provide ALS-non transport medical direction for the district for one year starting on Oct. 1.

During the June meeting, Pawul reported that he was researching medical directors to switch from piggybacking off of Lee County EMS. He explained that it would provide the district with its own ALS license and open the door to staff training and education that is more tailored to the district’s needs.

Prior to the vote, Pawul gave an overview of Abo’s professional experience. Currently working at NCH’s emergency department and serving as the medical director for some fire department task forces, Abo started his career “in the streets” in the EMS field, before he transitioned into an ER position.

“He understands what we go through out here in the field,” he said.

“He understands that we are a smaller district and don’t have as big as a budget as others do,” Pawul noted. “He’s also very passionate about this and wants to get back into fire department medicine.”

“I think that as a fire district this is the direction our medical training needs to go,” he added.

With the commissioners’ vote, Lee County now must approve the switch.


– Deputy Fire Chief Paul DeArmond announced the hiring of Firefighter-EMT Kyle Correia to fill the entry-level vacancy created when then-Firefighter Joshua Hulslander was promoted to lieutenant.

– Pawul reported that two more entry-level positions have opened up – a firefighter-EMT and firefighter-paramedic. The employees, who both had between seven and nine years of time in with the island district, have joined the Iona-McGregor Fire District. Their official last day was on July 12.

“We’ll have to do the hiring process again,” he said. “So testing, interviews.”

– The district responded to 42 incident calls in June.