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The final draft of the agreement that will allow the Greater Naples Fire/Rescue District to manage the Isles of Capri Fire District is complete and ready for approval by the Collier County and Greater Naples district commissioners.

“I think it will pass both our board and the county commissioners,” said Jeff Page, chairman of the eight elected members who make up the Greater Naples board.

The agreement, if signed, will become effective Oct. 1, and continue for three years, terminating on Sept. 30, 2018. It will be automatically renewed annually under the same terms and conditions, unless either party desires to terminate it.

The property tax rate for the Capri district will continue at $2 per $1,000 of value until a formal vote on a complete merger occurs.

The agreement addresses payment, service level, administration and records management, public relations and other services, personnel, ownership of vehicles, facilities and equipment, vehicle maintenance and return, equipment and facilities maintenance, insurance, cooperation with public utilities, resolution of conflicts, and termination of agreement.

If approved, the agreement ensures a staffing level of a “minimum of three firefighters (1 lieutenant, 1 driver/engineer, 1 firefighter) assigned to one class-A fire apparatus, 24 hours each day stationed at the Isles of Capri, which station shall at all times remain open, operational, and fully staffed with no ‘brown-out’ shifts.”

In addition, “The county reserves the right to station a Collier County EMS ambulance and personnel and equipment at the Isles of Capri fire station at the current budgeted rate.” Furthermore, it is understood and agreed by the parties that the fire station itself and any inventory item will not be leased, loaned, sold, sublet, assigned or mortgaged “without the county’s prior written consent.”

Long road

It has been a long hard road to finally get to the point of an opportunity to merge or consolidate with another fire district to enhance services and keep costs down.

Those who have worked so hard through the past decade, and even more intensely over the past three years, have been commended for their efforts. Their major hurdle had to do with staffing and employee benefits.

The agreement now ensures the service level and the terms of employment are protected. In addition, assets such as the fire house, emergency equipment and training programs are also protected under the agreement.

The agreement states that “For the first year of this agreement, to assist with continuity and a smooth transition, Greater Naples will endeavor to retain current Isles of Capri staff at the Isles of Capri Fire Station.”

It further states, “Upon the effective date of the agreement, all permanent employees of Isles of Capri will be transferred to Greater Naples in accordance with Local 2396 collective bargaining agreement as to terms of employment and accrued leave balances and with no negative impact on their compensation, rank and/or position, longevity and seniority.”

“Should this agreement terminate without a consolidation with, or annexation into the GNFD, the County will re-hire these same employees under the same conditions assuming those employees have been continuously employed by GNFD since the effective date of this agreement, and that there have been no adverse personnel events that would prevent rehire by the County, and subject to any rights under existing collective bargaining agreements at the time of rehire.”

Negotiating

Lt. Jorge Lara has been a speaker on this subject at the county commission numerous times during these last three years of planning and negotiating for the transfer of management from the county to Greater Naples.

Lara currently serves not only as an employee at ICFD Station 90, but also as union representative.

He is the son of Florida migrant workers and was a tomato picker himself after dropping out of school. He once thought that migrant work was going to be his draw in life. Instead, he landed his first firefighter’s job with the Ochopee Fire Control District in Everglades City in October 2001, where he served for almost five years.

“During my fifth year at OCFD a lieutenant’s position became available at Isles of Capri Fire Rescue,” said Lara. “I knew I met all the criteria to apply for this position, but I was the applicant with least years on the job and the least seniority.

“I was convinced that the odds of actually being promoted were not in my favor because there were three individuals far more qualified than me,” Lara said. “I was surprised that I was offered the job only two hours after my interview, and I accepted!”

Lara has been with ICFD for nine years by working his way up through the ranks “through hard work, education and persistence.”

Lara said he knew that he needed to go beyond being a certified firefighter, therefore earned a bachelor’s degree in science and management. He then earned the Fire Officer I and II, Live Fire Instructor, and Instructor II certifications.

Contact Ann Hall at ahall7911@coconuttele.net

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