City of Marco Island offers no proposal to county for Isles of Capri fire management, consolidation

East Naples Fire Chief Kingman Schuldt, left, and East Naples Fire Commissioner Jeff Page attend the Isles of Capri Fire District board meeting on April 11. Seated beside them is Mainsail Drive resident Jeri Neuhaus, a homeowner in the fire district. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

East Naples Fire Chief Kingman Schuldt, left, and East Naples Fire Commissioner Jeff Page attend the Isles of Capri Fire District board meeting on April 11. Seated beside them is Mainsail Drive resident Jeri Neuhaus, a homeowner in the fire district. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

— The City of Marco Island declined Wednesday to offer a plan for assuming operating responsibilities for Isles of Capri Fire District. The response answered a letter sent by the Collier County manager’s office on March 11 soliciting proposals.

Requests were sent to the East Naples Fire District and Marco Island City Council. Responses were due to the county by April 15. On Monday, the county received a plan from East Naples Fire Commissioner Jeff Page.

Marco Island asked the county for an extension until the end of the week, citing extenuating circumstances. Marco Island’s Fire Chief Mike Murphy has been absent on medical leave.

The county manager approved an extension until April 19.

The county received a letter dated April 10 from Marco Island City Manager Jim Riviere. It said the city was not inclined to make a proposal without resident of Isles of Capri and Marco Island’s elected officials understanding the true nature and implications of the plan.

For a plan to work, the letter stated, the solution must benefit both parties. It must be built on a sound fiscal foundation and provide tax savings while improving service to residents.

Riviere suggested residents of Capri’s fire district were not fully educated on options Marco might offer. Annexation into the city could reduce millage and offer city services to Capri fire district residents. But it would come with a loss of autonomy.

A relationship with Marco that was discussed by Capri residents moved administration of their Municipal Service Taxing Unit from the county to Marco Island. Under the change of administration, Capri would maintain its fire board and department but answer to a different government body on matters of budget, equipment, personnel and maintenance.

Riviere described transferring administrative oversight as a short-term solution that did not address the real issues. He did leave the door open to talks and possible negotiations provided all parties were in the discussion.

In addition, he suggested a grassroots effort was needed to educate all residents of Capri’s fire district on how reorganization would affect their destiny.

East Naples’ proposal is expected to be discussed by the Isles of Capri Fire District advisory board at 4 p.m., Thursday, May 2. In the proposal, East Naples would assume all operation of Capri’s fire department and require Capri to transfer all assets. The Capri fire station would remain open under East Naples leadership.

In exchange, East Naples proposed a reduced millage rate of 1.5 for fire service beginning Oct. 1, 2013. Property owners in Capri’s fire district currently pay a millage rate of 2.0.

The East Naples proposal allows Capri advisory board officials to remain in place until a complete transition takes place.

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Comments » 1

soundman writes:

I do not recall this issue being discussed by our council. something this significant should have had full public discussion.

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