ISLE OF CAPRI — Residents of Isles of Capri’s Fire District including representatives from Marco Shores discussed early talks with Marco Island’s Fire Department on joining forces.
A committee appointed to meet with Marco’s representatives said the first meeting was reassuring with no roadblocks to continuing its investigation.
The report was given as part of Isles of Capri’s Fire Control District Advisory Board’s regularly scheduled meeting on March 15. Board member Kevin Walsh, who had been appointed as the board’s liaison in the talks, gave the summation.
The investigative committee met with Marco Island Fire Chief Mike Murphy, Deputy Chief Chris Byrne and city council liaison, Chairman Larry Magel. That meeting followed one with Collier County’s Board of Commissioner and the committee that Walsh said was productive.
The committee asked for and received approval from commissioners to continue to conduct its investigation into changing administration of its District from the county to the City of Marco Island. The group also learned that Dwight Brock, county clerk, would help the committee qualify the financial models to be used in developing the Marco partnership.
Marco Island’s attorney reviewed the legality of what the committee was considering and determined there were no impediments to the investigative process, Walsh said.
Members of homeowners associations in Marco Shores and Fiddler’s Creek were contacted about the fire board’s meeting. Their properties fall within the Isles of Capri Fire District giving them a stake in the outcome. Two representatives from the Fairways on Mainsail Drive attended the meeting.
Board Chairman Joe Langkawel answered their questions about rationales for seeking the change.
“The reason we’re doing this is the advisory board has to look at the health and well-being of the fire department,” he said. “We must keep it intact and fiscally solvent.”
Langkawel stressed the desire to keep a hometown atmosphere for the District that included keeping firefighters and equipment with the department.
“The issue is not Chief Rodriguez,” board members said. “Those issues are strictly between the county and Rodriquez. We’re strictly financial. We do not hire. We do not fire. We can only give recommendations.”
The fire department currently is overseen by Ochopee Fire Chief Alan McLaughlin, who is there as a provisional supervisor appointed by the county. The county has solicited resumes to fill the chief’s position vacated when Rodriguez was fired. Members of the community asked McLaughlin if he had applied.
“If you are there, it’s assumed you can be an applicant,” McLaughlin replied. Acey Edgemon was appointed to be the board’s liaison with firefighters as changes progressed.
For Marco Island, Magel said the city wanted to help out a neighboring fire department if possible.
“They have to decide what they want to do. Then we’ll look at it and cost it and see what makes sense,” he said. Magel didn’t think the taxes paid by fire district homeowners and businesses could come directly to the city.
“They would have to give it to the county and the county would give it to us for administration,” he said. “It would be a break-even agreement. The city is not looking to profit from this.”
Chief Murphy agreed.
“Fire Rescue is a business that the city operates as a business. We’re willing to provide a business solution if required,” he said. “Anything we can do to help, we will do it.”
The Isles of Capri Fire Rescue District includes the Isles of Capri community, condominiums and Hammock Bay gated community on Mainsail Drive, and the front portion of Fiddler’s Creek gated community.