1. #1
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    Post Grenelefe Florida--Residents Plea for take over of Fire Dept.

    THE LEDGER

    Residents Argue for Fire Dept.

    By Amber Smith
    The Ledger
    amber.smith@theledger.com

    BARTOW -- George Hupp told county commissioners that his wife is alive today only because of the quick response of the Grenelefe volunteer firefighters.

    Hupp, a retired Illinois judge and Grenelefe resident, made an impassioned plea for county officials to take over the private Grenelefe volunteer fire department.

    "My wife had a serious heart problem," Hupp said at Wednesday's commission meeting. "The Grenelefe volunteer was there in five minutes. The ambulance came out in 30 minutes, and then they took her to the hospital. But it was the quick response of that Grenelefe medical specialist that saved my wife's life. Many people in Grenelefe have had their lives saved by the prompt response from that department."

    Unless the county takes over the station off County Road 544, it will close April 15, and residents will be covered by fire and EMS personnel from the Sun Air or Haines City county fire stations.

    The commissioners asked County Manager Jim Keene to have staff members put together figures on the costs and report back to the commission. Keene said he could have the information ready by the March 5 meeting.

    The private department was funded by homeowner fees and the former owners of the Grenelefe Golf and Tennis Resort, which went bankrupt two years ago. Last year, Westgate Corp. bought the property, but it does not want to support the private fire department.

    Richard Moore, director of resort operations, said Westgate would give the fire station building to the county if the county would take over and staff the station. The county pays the maintenance on the fire station and firetruck. The station is currently staffed by only the volunteer fire chief, Scott Clugston.

    Clugston, who also asked the county to take over the station, said the volunteers would turn over all their equipment and firetruck, which they bought, to the county.

    "It would be a tremendous savings for the county. That truck still has a good 10 years left in it," he said. "There is definitely a need for the county to take over the station. On a good day, it takes anywhere from nine to 15 minutes to get on property from either the Sun Air station or the Haines City station. That's if they can find the street. The streets and houses aren't real easy to find, sometimes."

    Clugston said the volunteer department, Station 12, covers about nine square miles, including the Grenelefe property and several surrounding subdivisions, such as Spring Pines and Shady Cove. There are 416 private homes at Grenelefe and about 900 condos. Not all of the condos are occupied. An exact count of residents was unavailable Wednesday.

    Polk County Fire Chief Doug Lewis has said it will cost $400,000 to fully staff the station 24 hours a day and that he does not have the money in his budget to do that.

    He has said he doesn't think the number of calls the county runs in the area warrants a full-time station there. He also said there were other areas in the county, such as the Polo Park area on U.S. 27 north of I-4 and the area near Moore Road in North Lakeland, that are in the same situation as Grenelefe.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  2. #2
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    Hmmmmm........... Maybe they should just try to fund it as a volunteer or combination department.
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  3. #3
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    Default FL Dept

    I think your right. If they already have volunteers why reinvent the wheel??? Just add some Paid personnel and go from their.
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  4. #4
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    I've seen this story in the past...

    When they say the station is only staffed by the volunteer Chief -- that's exactly what they mean. It's down to one last active volunteer!

  5. #5
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    Post Follow Up Story

    THE LEDGER

    Grenelefe Loses Bid for EMS Station
    The station will probably close April 15 unless the county takes it over.

    By Amber Smith

    The Ledger


    amber.smith@theledger.com

    BARTOW -- Polk County cannot afford to put an emergency medical services station in Grenelefe, county fire and safety officials said Wednesday.

    That verdict was presented to the County Commission in response to a request by Grenelefe residents for help in saving their EMS station.

    Unless the county takes over the station off County Road 544, it will close April 15. The residents will be covered by fire and EMS personnel from the Sun Air or Haines City county fire stations.

    Residents went before the County Commission in February to ask that the county take over the fire station or, at the least, the EMS station.

    The commissioners asked County Manager Jim Keene to have staff members put together figures on the costs and report back to the commission.

    Wednesday, Keene reported back -- and it was not what the residents wanted to hear.

    The commissioners were told that other areas had better claims on the county's money than Grenelefe has.

    The county would have to spend $431,000 for vehicles to equip the Grenelefe station for EMS and another $290,000 a year for the three paramedics and three EMTS needed to staff the station 24 hours a day, County Fire Chief Doug Lewis has said.

    To fully staff the Grenelefe station, it would cost $400,000 for fire personnel, said County Fire Chief Doug Lewis.

    The volunteer department covers about 9 square miles, including the Grenelefe property and several surrounding subdivisions, such as Spring Pines and Shady Cove. There are 416 private homes at Grenelefe and about 900 condos. Not all the condos are occupied.

    The private department was funded by homeowner fees and the former owners of the Grenelefe Golf and Tennis Resort, which went bankrupt two years ago.

    Last year, Westgate Corp. bought the property, but it does not want to support the private fire department.

    Wednesday morning, Richard Moore, the director of resort operations for Grenelefe, asked for a second time for the county commissioners to take over the private station and provide coverage to the residents who live in and near the resort.

    "No one wants their taxes raised, and every tax dollar given to the county goes for various needs," Moore said.

    "But we are unique in that we own our own roads, and our own water and sewer plant," he said. "We know, that of the $1.5 million in taxes that we pay to the county, that $180,000 to $200,000 of that is earmarked for EMS.

    "We are not looking for all the other services that we pay the county for, we just want the county to put EMS staff at the station," he said. "We are willing to donate the station and the use of the fire truck for EMS."

    Originally, members of the local homeowners' associations had wanted the county to take over the station entirely and provide both fire and EMS.

    But the focus has shifted more to providing just EMS services.

    Larry Alexander, the county public safety director, said the county is constantly reviewing where fire and EMS personnel need to be moved.

    He said statistics show that other areas in the county also need additional coverage.

    And, Alexander said, some of those areas need the coverage more than Grenelefe, which is being covered by two other county fire stations, Station 33 in Haines City and Station 26 in Sun Air.

    Fire Capt. Mike Linkins showed commissioners the statistics on the Grenelefe area at the Wednesday county commission meeting.

    He told commissioners that the Grenelefe station has nine miles of coverage area that overlaps the Haines City and Sun Air coverage areas.

    In 2002, Linkins said, there were 114 calls for service, which ranged from fire alarms, medical calls, vehicle accidents and other emergency calls.

    Of the 114 calls, he said, the Grenelefe station, which is staffed by one certified firefighter who is paid by the Grenelefe area homeowners' associations, ran 51 of those calls.

    The rest were handled by county firefighters.

    Linkins said the average response time from the Grenelefe fire station is 6.68 minutes. The time from the county's Haines City fire station is 9.57 minutes. Response time is 10.84 minutes from the Sun Air station.

    Ambulance response times are slightly longer because they are usually out on another call or covering another area for an ambulance out on a call, he said.

    The response time for an ambulance from the Haines City EMS station is 10.77 minutes. It is 12.71 minutes from the Sun Air EMS station.

    Linkins compared the Grenelefe area to the Polo Park area in Northeast Polk County and Moore Road area in Lakeland.

    He said there were 193 calls to the Polo Park area and 95 calls to the Moore Road area last year.

    He said the average response time to Polo Park is nine minutes for fire and 11 minutes for EMS, while response time is 10 minutes to Moore Road for fire and 13 minutes for EMS.

    Gary Gardner, the president of the Grenelefe Homeowners' Association, said those times are not acceptable in an emergency.

    "I would not be real proud of those response times if I were them," Gardner said.

    County Commissioner Neil Combee made the comparison that the Grenelefe station ran about one call a week.

    "And there was one week out of the year then that they didn't run any calls," Combee said.

    Linkins pointed out that the station could have had two calls in one day and none on another, but agreed that Combee was right in principle.

    County Commissioner Jack Myers asked if it was possible to set up a special taxing district for EMS in the Grenelefe area where the residents and county would share costs.

    Alexander said officials could look into it, but he did not recommend it.

    And he said another problem with the Grenelefe station is its location.

    The station, which is off County Road 544, "is not easily accessible," Alexander said.

    Commission Chairman Randy Wilkinson asked county staff to look into the special taxing district.

    Gardner said he didn't know if that would be an option.

    "I can't speak for the homeowners without talking to them about this first," he said. "I report back to the homeowners, but basically what they told us was `no' they aren't going to put EMS in the station. That is what I heard."

    Alexander said he would check with the interim county attorney to see what is involved with a special taxing district.

    "It is a bit of a scary option," Alexander said, "especially if you don't go into it correctly."

    Amber Smith can be reached at amber.smith@theledger.com or at 863-422-6800.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
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    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  6. #6
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    Angry Stupid, Stupid, Stupid..............

    Do all of the idiots in the world live in Florida?? My codolences to the outstanding Fire/Rescue professionals (like Capt. Stan) who have to deal with this s#@$% on a daily basis. First question, why aren't the whiners volunteering? Second question, am I the only person out here who thinks a paid staff is totally unwarranted? The call volume here has me wondering what kind of calls do these people run. What we call a full service organization here would run at least a call a day with similar population and Sq. mile area to serve. Does the area that the department covers have the ability to support the department thru voluntary fund raising measures that most of us use? This whole story has my BP up again. Stay Safe....
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  7. #7
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    The county should be responsible for providing adequate fire and EMS for all parts of the county. If people county-wide are paying the same taxes, yet some are receiving superior services for the same money, then something is wrong. They need to either raise taxes to provide adequate services or revamp/relocate their existing fire stations to provide equal and timely response to any emergency. They should also cut out any unjustified spending until this is resolved. I tire of hearing of local governments spending millions on recreation and "beautification" projects while their police and firefighters lanquish with understaffing, low pay, and poor equipment. FIRE AND POLICE FIRST...then the kids can go play ball!

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    I have heard of this before. I still don't understand why the same citizens who are pushing for the EMS/Fire station can't simply voluteer and run it as their own private department. If the county won't do it, it looks like that is their only choice. What's up with the one volunteer? What kind of community support is that?
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  9. #9
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    If people county-wide are paying the same taxes, yet some are receiving superior services for the same money, then something is wrong.

    Are we to put a fire station in front of everyone's homes to ensure equal coverage? As the article pointed out, other areas with similiar call volumes get similiar response times.

    People make choices. Some chose to live further from developed fire protection than others.

    114 calls a year. Staffing the station full-time for EMS will cost roughly $350,000 a year -- they're saying $290,000 in personnel, still halfta budget some more for maintenance & replacement even if they're given the station & apparatus. For a unit to role out once every three days. Them's are gonna be some experienced Paramedics, they get what, 30 runs a year each, and half are probably BLS? That's what you get when you divide 114 into 3 shifts, plus a little more time off for vacation, etc. If you start running them out-of-district to make more calls, then you're back to square one with no coverage in district...

    Those are some figures that County's gotta look at in making a decision

    The residents halfta make some decisions. They're not happy receiving similiar service to other like parts of the county? Special Taxing District is one option, forming volunteer first responders is another. I get the impression the area isn't exactly high on the volunteer ethic, so they gotta figure if they want to crack they're wallets open some more or not.

    (And if I was the County, I'd offer a compromise, we'll pay half/you pay half, since it does seem they offer a relative "bargain" to the county in taxes paid v. services received based on the article)

  10. #10
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    Post Fire Station Closes

    Polk Online

    Board shutters Grenelefe fire station
    By STEVEN N. LEVINE
    ncpub@earthlink.net

    HAINES CITY -- The garage door closed Saturday on the Grenelefe Volunteer Fire Department. All that remains is literally turning off the lights.

    After nearly a year and a half of fighting to fund the grassroots rescue squad, Grenelefe fire board members voted 4-1 to end the agency and sell its assets, effective Tuesday. The only dissenter on the disgusted and disenchanted board was the department's former chief, Jerry Brown, who acknowledged having nothing in common with the company besides the paycheck he once received.

    The station on Lake Marion Road off County Road 544 is actually owned by Westgate Resorts, the successor to Sports Shinko Florida Ltd. The Japanese corporation, which once owned Grenelefe Golf & Tennis Resort, kicked in $40,000 from a special assessment to help fund Engine 12's operations. Westgate will not help generate the $91,000-$96,000 needed to keep the department on the road, said Rick Van Billard, fire board member.

    Neither will the majority of Grenelefe-area residents, generally divided among five homeowners associations and the condominium complex, Van Billard said. Something over 700 residences were served by the department that in the end dropped to a single volunteer.

    Outgoing Chief Scott Clugston, an Orange County fire lieutenant, and member of the board, simply said he "was done." After 11 years of early-morning calls at work and when he came home, "I know for myself I'm done."

    Board member Don Bevin complained not enough homeowners are willing to pay to keep the engine rolling, if only as a medical response unit. Emergency medical service and fire service personnel from Sun Air or Haines City are technically responsible for the area. But Clugston reported he still arrived before county fire engines, despite driving from Dundee to the station for an outhouse fire at a golf course.

    The Polk County Commission last month backed a staff recommendation not to pay more than $300,000 to staff the station around the clock to county standards. County Fire Chief Doug Lewis says there are far more critical areas of the Ridge that need more manpower first.

    The station was not without its defenders. Incoming Grenelefe Homeowners Association Council President Gary Gardner pleaded for at least nother month to rally residents in support of the fire department.

    "Ninety-five percent of the people I talk to are in favor of keeping the station open," Gardner said. "I don't understand why April 15 is such a critical day. I want to keep the station open until fall. This is a serious issue."

    However, board members, who've battled and begged from fellow home and condominium owners for a more than a year, appeared ready to put the issue behind them. Fire commissioners actually agreed last May to disband the department in November, but extended the deadline to January and then to April in the hopes of sparking a groundswell of interest from nearby residents.

    Only 20 residents turned out in March to hear Clugston's appeal to county commissioners. Billard hoped to "line the walls" of the commission chambers with residents.

    "It isn't worth all the hassle that these guys have gone through. They had enough and they want out," Bevin said.

    As part of the motion disbanding the group, money from the sale of department assets like its fire truck and ambulance will be placed in an account for a year. Then it will most likely be divided among the five property owners' groups following a final fire company board meeting.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  11. #11
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    Post The last days

    NO MORE ALARM BELLS
    Grenelefe Volunteer Fire Department Ceases Operations

    By Amber Smith
    The Ledger
    amber.smith@theledger.com

    HAINES CITY
    Racks of 3-inch fire hose sit along a wall next to lockers of emergency equipment at the Grenelefe Volunteer Fire Department, waiting to be inventoried by county fire services officials.

    As of midnight, the volunteer Fire Department that served the former Grenelefe Golf and Tennis Resort and surrounding subdivisions for 22 years closed its doors for good.

    "I turned off the pager and made the last entry in the run log," said Scott Clugston, the department's volunteer chief and only paid firefighter for the past two years since the Grenelefe resort owners declared bankruptcy and sold the resort to the Westgate Corp. last year.

    "It's a shame the county isn't going to take the station over," Clugston said. "They really are doing a disservice to the residents out here.

    "It is the county's responsibility to provide emergency services for residents," he said. "They could have had this building and all the equipment for free. Now, it looks like we are going to be having a fire sale."

    Because of what officials say is a tight budget, Polk County Fire Services is not going to take over and staff the station off County Road 544 with paid firefighters.

    Grenelefe homeowners' associations also do not want to help with the costs to keep the station open, and Westgate officials have said they expect the county to run the department and are not interested in supporting the station financially.

    Clugston, who has volunteered at the station for 12 years, said he tried his best to save the department and get the county to staff the Grenelefe station.

    "I've met with homeowners. I've gone before the County Commission. I've met with county fire officials," he said. "It's over. I'm done."

    Richard Van Billiard, the president of the soon-to-be-defunct Grenelefe Volunteer Fire Department board of directors, said he doesn't think residents realize what they are losing.

    "This just breaks my heart," Van Billiard said as he walked through the bay doors at the fire station Tuesday.

    "I don't think they realize that when they have an emergency now that they are going to have to wait for someone to come from either the Sun Air or Haines City (county) fire stations," he said.

    And there was no 11:59 p.m. reprieve for the station, said Polk County Fire Chief Doug Lewis.

    "We are limited by our budget," Lewis said. "We just don't have the funding to take over that station."

    Lewis has said that even with the donation of the station and equipment, the main costs come from paying personnel. He has estimated it would cost $300,000 a year to keep the station open.

    He said there are not enough calls in the area to warrant the expense.

    Clugston said the station averages a call every two days or so.

    "The problem is when you need an ambulance or a firetruck, you need it right then," he said. "You don't want to wait for one to come from Sun Air or Haines City.

    "This area is developing. There are new houses going up all over the place. The calls are going to increase out here," Clugston said.

    Lewis said the county will keep an eye on the number of calls in the Grenelefe area.

    "We will keep evaluating the area out there. We do that throughout the county now. If the calls increase, then we will look at the situation again," he said.

    Clugston has already posted a sign on the doors of the station instructing someone seeking help to call 9-1-1 instead.

    All that is left is for the county to pick up its equipment and the rest to be sold.

    He said money from the sale will be put into a fund for a year, then will be given back to the homeowners' association that helped support the station.

    "A lot of this stuff was bought by the volunteers," Clugston said. "It is a shame to see it all go. This stuff is in great shape. The firetruck still has another 10 years left in it easily."

    Clugston said he didn't know what Westgate plans to do with the building.

    Westgate officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

    "It really is a shame," Clugston said, shaking his head while looking around the bay of the station. "I think the county is really letting the residents down here."

    Amber Smith can be reached at amber.smith@theledger.com or at 863-422-6800.


    Last modified: April 16. 2003 8:31AM
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
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    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  12. #12
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    This is pitiful! Out of 700 households there aren't 10 or 12 people interested enough to keep this going? There're down to one "volunteer" (quotes because I gather he's a "paid volunteer")?

    Well, I guess these people will get the kind of fire department they deserve!

    May sound harsh, but it's true!

  13. #13
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    Unhappy Trending

    Kychief350

    I fear this is a trend in Fla. As I travel in my consultant job I see Fire Departments with 10 or less members. Some have already started a transition into 1 or 2 paid firefighters 24/7. This coupled with the new mandatory 160+ hour training program for volunteers will drive the volunteers out. Additionally, there is not monetary support from the community. My formere volunteer department sent out letters requesting a donation $40/household and business. This would have generated about $135K-$150K. The return was only 25%. Not near enough to operate. This mandatory training is required by the State Fire Marshal's Office even for people who have been in the busines for years.

    I am all for training and support it whole heartedly...but in Fla the Cost to get this 160 hour class is astronomical and not only that it is not readily available. You can go to the Fire College Website and see that almost every class for the next 6-8 months is marked "FULL". If this is a requirement then it needs to be made available. I support training 100% but even though I am a retired career captain and former volunteer Chief (volunteer for 32 yrs and career for 22), Adjunct Virginia Instructor, Haz Mat Specialist, Florida will not let me challenge any tests other than Firefighter II. This is because they are gouging the departments for training.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  14. #14
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    Captstanm- If you get tired of fighting the shortsighted idiots down there, come on up to Indiana. There is a HUGE training gap here also, but the state doesn't get involved in it. At all. Not even a little bit.

    As far as this thread goes, it is a damn shame that with that many residents, they couldn't find a way to keep it open. Did they try for an all vol force? Or did they just try to stay paid?
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  15. #15
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    I do not think the issue is paid/volunteer. The Chief was paid by the Corporation that owned the resort. In Florida it is common to have a paid chief (paid by a jurisdiction) that manages a volunteer fire department. And in a lot of cases, the compensation is chicken feed.

    There just seemed not to be enough interest in keeping the station open to generate enough support in the form of warm bodies to run the calls.

    1835Wayne..thanks for the invite...but it SNOWS there....
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  16. #16
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    Default Stan: it must suck to be you!

    Stan:
    I know you manage to keep quite busy, but what are you consulting on?
    If fire departments keep closing in Florida; if Florida residents don't feel that a quick response can help the outcome, then why are people so outraged? These people at Greenlefe have shown by their apathy/inaction or whatever you want to label it, that THEY DO NOT WANT A FIRE/EMS DEPARTMENT! You can't force it on them. But I would recommend that they move to Las Vegas because, clearly, they are playing the odds and they believe that the odds are in their favor. They should all be millionaires in no time, with that attitude!
    And until Florida stops using their training program as their little piggy bank, no one with any sense will give up both time and the money for the training. I have found that when the state pays for the training, attendance is through the roof. People will pay for the gas to get there and even their meal, but the class registration fee? Some will, but most WON'T.
    Florida needs to make sweeping and dramatic change in their programs if they don't want to see a swing from fire departments to salvage companies.
    Stan, my man; you have my thoughts and prayers. If part of your job is convincing these tightwads that they need fire service, then you have the toughest job of all!
    Stay safe and keep fighting the good fight.
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    There are several problems with finding volunteers.
    1 the people that buy into these condos pay as much as a $100,000 for a one or two bedroom apartments and most are eldery.
    2 these people pay a "hefty" monthly fee for maintenance.
    3 during the volunteer week at the Fla Fire College in Ocala they admitted that one of the reasons for not "grandfathering" those that have the original Vol Fire Fighter course is they wanted to get rid of the older Vollies.
    These older people expect to receive help.
    They seeme to think that they have paid enough and they cannot pass
    the new 160hr courses physical test.

    Just a thought on the problems in Florida.
    Last edited by 5pts384; 04-20-2003 at 09:36 PM.

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