What a difference an election can make.
This past November the voters within the East Naples fire district voted into office four new commissioners, replacing four long-term, entrenched board members.
The East Naples voters took the first step in moving emergency services, within Collier County, into the 21st century.
Why is this important? Because the four new commissioners campaigned on a pledge to bring long-overdue change to their district; to seek ways by which to increase effectiveness in delivering critical service; and to seek unconventional means by which to increase financial efficiency.
They are honoring their campaign pledges.
The new East Naples fire district commissioners reached out to the Golden Gate fire district board and said the following:
You need a chief, we have one
We need an assistant chief, you have one
We need office space, you have it.
Moving quickly, paperwork was drawn up and the results are as follows:
Where once there were two chiefs there is now one.
Where once there were two assistant chiefs, there is now one.
Administrative staff is now being brought under one roof.
Estimated savings are more than $400,000.
The 21 elected fire commissioners, representing the county’s five independent fire districts are, and always have been, responsible for the organizational structure within which critical emergency services are delivered. The chiefs are, and always have been, responsible for delivering those services. Few, if any, fire commissions, until now, have ever truly stepped up and took on this responsibility. It was much more convenient to ask the chiefs to handle it, which meant dead on arrival.
In defense of the chiefs, among the highest-paid public officials within Collier County, why would they want to change a structure that treats them so well?
The East Naples and Golden Gate fire commissioners are new assuming long-ignored responsibilities and addressing the core questions driving this historic transformation.
We are functioning within a 1960s emergency services (fire, rescue, medical) delivery structure. On a blank sheet of paper what should/could the structure look like today? How can we most effectively and efficiently utilize 21st-century personnel, equipment, technology and logistics in delivering emergency services? How can we get the right people, with the right skills, to the right place, with the right equipment, within four minutes?
The East Naples and Golden Gate fire district boards are now seeking and developing answers to those questions. They are to be commended for their leadership.
In closing, I will comment on the role of momentum in bringing about historic change. The prolonged decline in assessed property values has highlighted the financial inefficiencies of our antiquated multidepartment emergency-services delivery structure. The voters of the East Naples fire district took action. The new commissioners have moved swiftly and in a planned, responsible manner.
Remember that previous commissions, countywide, have been “looking” at mergers for more than 25 years. I want to encourage the residents within the East Naples and Golden Gate fire districts to let their commissioners know they are supporting their efforts. I can assure you that I am.
The opinions expressed above are mine and not, necessarily, those of my fellow North Naples fire commissioners.