ISLE OF CAPRI — Preserving self-determination was the overriding outcome of an investigative study handed over to the Isles of Capri Fire Advisory Board Friday night.
The report summarized work by the Isles of Capri Budgetary and Operational Investigative Committee. The committee formed to consider alternatives in administration for Capri’s fire district and its Municipal Service Taxing Unit.
Committee members hoped to find cost savings in addition to considering administrative possibilities. The report concluded that in three scenarios investigated, one offered the best administrative relief, but none provided significant expense reductions.
Matt Crowder, chairman of the investigative committee, told the advisory board the group started compiling findings to bring order to management problems and to save money. In addition, investigators feared Collier County was moving toward consolidating fire departments, a move that could merge Capri’s MSTU into a single Collier County general fund for emergency management.
The committee looked at three options: keeping their relationship with the Board of Collier County Commissioners as administrator of MSTU funds, joining East Naples Fire & Rescue as administrator, or joining Marco Island’s Fire Department and allowing the Marco Island City Council to take over administration.
The investigative report recommended transferring administration of the MSTU funds to Marco Island. It noted the partnership would require the least amount of change for Capri’s fire department and its advisory board. Key issues for investigators were levels of emergency protection for Isles of Capri, tax dollars remaining in their district, and a management environment that was focused more positively on Capri’s fire services.
Committee members met with all three jurisdictions during fact finding. On Marco Island, they met with Fire Chief Mike Murphy and a member of his staff. The group was impressed with Murphy’s commitment to the fire department and the community. They felt Marco Island held its fire department to high standards but reciprocated with respect and by providing quality equipment.
Geographically, the two departments are right next door, the report stated. The two departments have enjoyed high levels of cooperation, it further explained. But most importantly, the relationship would allow Capri’s fire department to continue to operate independently without threat of consolidation.
“If we stay under Collier County, we are going to lose resources,” said John Rogers, a member of the investigating committee. “The county has a plan and they’re going to rape and pillage. I am repulsed by the way Collier County does business. We’re advocating the least amount of change.”
Advisory board member Ted Decker suggested that after the board has had time to review the report, it should form a committee to see how much control would be relinquished if the MSTU were administered by Marco’s city council.
The advisory board agreed to send a letter of intent to County Commissioner Donna Fiala and to the Board of Collier County Commissioners before its next meeting. The letter would acknowledge receipt of the report and its intent to review it and possibly act upon its recommendations.
Advisory board chairman Joseph Langkawel thanked the committee for its work saying the findings would be discussed at the next board meeting with public comment being an integral part of any decision.
Jeri Neuhaus, member of the investigation committee, agreed the key to future success for Capri’s fire department was a good turnout at the board’s next meeting.
“The people I’ve talked to feel the same way as the committee. I want everyone to be at the next meeting, because I don’t want a repeat of 1996,” she said. When asked what happened in 1996, Neuhaus responded: “They’ll know.”
The next advisory board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., Feb. 16, at the Isles of Capri Fire Station.