Guest column: It's working in Golden Gate and East Naples

By Kevin Gerrity

Commissioner

Golden Gate Fire and Rescue District

A terrific rescue of a woman from a house fire, a large brush fire quickly extinguished, a blaze fought in a storage facility.

All in a day’s work for our local firefighters.

But something is different about these and many other emergency responses in our area recently. These incidents are being handled by a newly united East Naples and Golden Gate Fire District.

Under the command of Fire Chief Kingman Schuldt, supported by one of the finest fire operations officers in Southwest Florida, Assistant Chief Nolan Sapp, the newly unified departments are providing these and many other support services at a savings to taxpayers of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The gains in efficiency are indisputable.

Training is being combined by Captains Rusty Godette and Andrea Schultz, and fire prevention bureaus brought together under Fire Marshall Nick Biondo. Importantly, administrative and financial matters are being brought under the control of Finance and Administration Director Tara Bishop, an outstanding fire service professional, in an effort to create efficiency and insure the prudent use of taxpayer dollars. Captain Kris Klock is bringing the maintenance of vehicles and facilities together, and for the first time, we are on the verge of county-wide agreements on vehicle maintenance.

Each department is contributing personnel to these areas, and the jobs are being done in a more efficient, cost-effective manner.

Perhaps the most exciting and dramatic service improvement in the works is a program being developed between the combined departments and Collier County Emergency Medical Services to provide advanced life support (ALS) engines throughout both departments. This will get paramedics to the scene more quickly and improve the outcome of medical emergencies for you and your loved ones.

The money we are saving from the elimination of duplicating services can be better used on these types of direct service to the public. This is the kind of efficiency that saves lives, which is the core of our mission.

These historic changes have come about under the leadership of a majority of the elected fire commissioners from the two boards, who continue to get resistance from the forces of the old guard, who simply want to “do things the way we used to.” Nevertheless, we are pushing forward to make sure that the final consolidation of the two districts gets to the voters soon.

If you appreciate efficient use of your tax dollars, and desire a highly trained, unified fire and rescue service that can save lives and protect property, I seek your support in keeping this effort moving forward.

The two districts meet on the second Tuesday and Wednesday of each month. The attendance by a supportive public at these meetings is a huge factor in keeping elected officials accountable. If you are unable to attend, I urge you to contact your local fire commissioners and express your support for this consolidation effort.

These opinions are mine, and do not necessarily reflect those of other commissioners.

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