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Fire commissioners OK tentative millage rate

By TIFFANY REPECKI / trepecki@breezenewspapers.com - | Jul 20, 2021

TIFFANY REPECKI

The Captiva Island Fire Control District’s commission approved the not-to-exceed millage rate and budget hearings for fiscal year 2021-22, as well as were updated on the recent storm and landing zone.

At the July 13 meeting, the commissioners voted unanimously 3-0 to approve a proposed operating millage rate of 1.9450 mills, which is 13.48 percent greater than the rolled-back rate of 1.7139.

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

“Whatever we set our tentative rate at today we can only go down,” Fire Chief Jeff Pawul said.

The gross taxable value for the district from the Lee County Property Appraiser is $1,542,825,679.

Prior to the vote, Pawul presented the commission with two options to consider for the proposed operating millage rate. He explained that the first one will result in a similar budget to the current fiscal year, and the second will result in a revenue increase to fund new planned and possible expenses.

Pawul continued that the second option — 1.9450 mills — would set up $200,000 for a new landing zone, $66,000 for a new medical rescue-treatment apparatus and $50,000 for a new state-mandated performance audit, plus cover cost increases for cyber and station security, building repairs and such.

“I don’t know why we just don’t make it the higher rate now so we’re prepared,” Commissioner Colin Black said, adding that it can be lowered later if they decide not to proceed on any of the projects.

The others voiced agreement.

“That’s certainly my inclination,” Commissioner Jeffrey Brown said.

A motion to proceed with the second, higher rate passed.

The first budget hearing will be held on Sept. 9 at 5:01 p.m., after the 4 p.m. monthly meeting.

The second and final budget hearing is set for Sept. 23 at 5:01 p.m.

Also during the meeting, Pawul provided an overview of the impact of Tropical Storm Elsa.

“It wasn’t a big one, but it brought a lot of water,” he said.

Pawul reported that Captiva saw some storm surge and between 7 and 10 inches of rain, depending on the weather source. Also, a lot of older or non-elevated structures took on water on the ground floor.

“We did a lot of road clearing afterward,” he said about downed vegetation the next morning.

Pawul acknowledged LCEC for doing “a great job getting the power back on.”

He added that Elsa served as a reminder of the importance of hurricane season preparation.

“You live on a barrier island. You need to be prepared,” Pawul said.

Also at the meeting, Pawul provided an update on the ongoing search for a new landing zone for Lee County’s EMS helicopter. In the past few months, the district lost access to the Rauschenberg lawn.

He reported that DexBender Environmental Consulting is looking at all options, including if any mangrove or beach areas could be used. Any potential mangrove areas could require mitigation efforts by the district. Pawul said the consultant is waiting to hear back from state and regional agencies.

“So we’re waiting,” he said.

IN OTHER NEWS

– Pawul provided the commission with the proposed contract with the Fort Myers Beach Fire Department for a fire plans and fee schedule for commercial projects. He noted that once approved, it enables an agency with a barrier island understanding to oversee that, rather than Lee County.

– Deputy Fire Chief Paul DeArmond reported that they are doing boat and hands-on fire training.

“Even though it’s hot, we still gotta get out and train,” he said.

– DeArmond reported that all of the annual fire inspections have been completed, and now staff is returning to those with violations to confirm they were fixed. They have 30 to 45 days to do so.

– The district responded to 71 calls in June, compared to 41 for the same month in 2020.

“We are more than double where we were at this time last year,” Pawul said.

“That does not count the storm,” he added.