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In the aftermath of the news confirming the loss of $120,000 in tax revenue, the Isles of Capri Fire Advisory Committee is faced with greater uncertainty.

The Collier County Commission removed 280 homes in Fiddler's Creek served by the Isles of Capri Fire District and reassigned them to the Greater Naples Fire District.

The advisory committee's dilemma is two-fold. They still do not know who will manage their district or how much revenue will be available for its operations, yet the committee is charged with developing a proposed budget for submission to the commissioners in early April.

On March 26, at 4 p.m., the committee will hold a special budget meeting.

"As I see it, you will need to prepare two proposed budgets," Len Price, Collier County administrator told the members at their March 12 meeting. "One based on the current taxable rate ($2 per $1,000 taxable property value) and a second based on an increased rate of ($3 per $1,000 taxable value)."

Funding for the district operations was not the only concern discussed at the March 12 meeting.

Wayne Martin, operations manager, gave the committee and members from the public in attendance more disturbing news.

Rescue boat unsafe

"The ICFD fire rescue boat 90 is considered unsafe and not be cost effective to repair," Martin said.

Martin acknowledged the generous $60,000 in donations that allowed the district to purchase a used Boston Whaler and retrofit it into a fire and rescue boat eight years ago.

"Intercostal Marine Services, the same company that surveyed the boat then, and gave it a life expectancy of 8-10 years, is the same one that has now determined it has exhausted its service life," said Martin.

Martin explained that two companies were given a chance to analyze the seaworthiness of the boat, and both agreed it was "not cost-effective to repair" nor "safe to operate."

"The county is looking into finding another boat that could be purchased, as well as looking into funding and grants for support," said Martin.

In the interim, the Emergency Management Boat 80 is being used to continue emergency services on the water and is being called Boat 90. This vessel is not outfitted for the same level of service that was provided by the expired Boat 90.

"Firefighters voiced concerns that boat 90 was difficult to operate," said Alan McLaughlin, Ochopee fire chief who has been filling in for the Capri district after Emilio Rodriguez was removed from the position two years ago.

"We are always the first on the scene on water calls," said Lt. Jason Michael, a member of the Capri staff.

"This was the busiest boat in the county until Marco Island's acquisition of its new fire boat," said McLaughlin.

Questions

Fire and rescue operations on the water are considered extremely important to the residents of Capri, but some question why the Capri district should be the primary financial supporter for this service just because the boat is housed at their station.

Martin announced that 90 percent of the calls they receive for marine emergencies are for calls outside the district.

An even more stressful uncertainty for the residents in the Capri district is not knowing who will manage the district's operations.

Collier commissioners distributed an informal fire service request for proposals to ascertain the interest of other fire districts in entering a management agreement to address the following areas:

* Service level;

* Benefits to taxpayers;

* Long-term sustainability;

* Impact on employees;

* Cost and payment terms.

Price, who has been spearheading the logistics for such an agreement, announced in the March 12 advisory committee meeting that the timeline for receiving and reviewing the proposals had been extended by about a month.

"We should still be on schedule to meet the July 14 date for the mileage tax rate adoption and implementation," said Price.

The timeline now requires that all responses are due by noon on April 16, and they will be reviewed and provided to the commission in May and June. Price anticipates negotiation and a contract drafted sometime in latter June and early July, with a contract awarded by July 14.

"The request for proposals sent out from the county was not written with part of the agreement needing a new boat," said Price. "The management agreement proposals do not include the fire boat as part of the agreement."

"Our assumption is that it is purely an EMS service, housed on Capri, but maintained through EMS," said Martin.

The truth is the Capri advisory committee formed a subcommittee more than two years ago, and with help from the county, held a series of public workshops in hopes of obtaining proposals for a management agreement with the Capri district.

It seems now as if the management and funding for ICFD will remain an uncertainty until at least mid-July.

Contact Ann Hall at ahall7911@coconuttele.net

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