I don't agree with the headline on the article by Jessica Lipscomb in the Daily News on Wednesday regarding East Naples and Golden Gate fire districts consolidation meeting.
First of all, every one of the fire commissioners attending Tuesday night's joint meeting (two from Golden Gate and five from East Naples) were in 100 percent agreement to pursue actions which will lead to potential consolidation.
Some items, which were mentioned in the article, included the recent resignation and soon-to-be-vacant Golden Gate fire chief position while East Naples has a fully functioning fire chief; Golden Gate having ladder and water tender trucks, which East Naples needs; Golden Gate has an assistant chief, which East Naples does not have and needs, etc.
Working together to solve these and other opportunities, which will be identified, will actually help us transition to a more complete consolidation effort.
I can tell you from my perspective, as one of the East Naples fire commissioners, we plan on pursuing all such windows of opportunity to move the question of consolidation forward.
That process has already begun. Commissioners from both districts are having an ongoing dialogue as to how to go about this in the most expeditious and thorough manner possible. We all know the frustration comes from years of discussion about fire-district consolidation in the county without much action. As one of the commissioners elected in November, the consolidation issue was, and remains, at the top of my and others' priority list.
As I mentioned at the joint meeting, the process begins with having a strategic plan. Much of what needs to be in such a strategic plan has already been discussed in past efforts; what hasn't been done is agreeing on what we would like a consolidated fire department (and basic and advanced life support services) in Collier County to look and function like. This vision will allow those stakeholders involved to take a step back and "zero base" our approach in order to make sure we do consolidation correctly the first time.
One more thing: Such an effort as I am outlining here is very complex and won't happen overnight. But, with an approved plan, well understood by all constituencies, where actions against that plan are noted along the way, we can get to where most want us to be.