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  1. #1
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Post Collier County Fla---Consolidation?????

    Collier proposal to form fire services committee evokes question of first step to consolidation

    Monday, May 5, 2003

    By LARRY HANNAN, ljhannan@naplesnews.com


    A proposal for a new fire services committee is raising fears that Collier County is trying to consolidate all the independent fire districts into one, controlled by county government.

    Collier County wants to set up a new committee that will include representatives from the seven independent fire districts. This plan concerns some people, who fear it is the first step toward fire district consolidation.

    This cannot be done without the fire districts' consent, and all of the fire districts have opposed consolidation in the past.

    County officials say this committee is just an effort to improve communication among the fire districts and county staff.

    "The county wants to work closer with the fire districts," Commission Chairman Tom Henning said. "We're not interested in taking over the fire districts. In my opinion the county already has enough to do."

    If the fire districts want to consolidate they can, but the county isn't interested in a takeover, Henning said.

    "I think there may be better ways to provide service to people," Henning said. "With most accidents you have three different entities going out. If we can get a single response it will benefit the taxpayers."

    Henning and County Manager Jim Mudd outlined their plan at a recent meeting of the county's fire services Steering Committee. The Steering Committee includes officials from all the fire districts in Collier County, including East Naples, North Naples and Golden Gate, among others.

    Mudd said the new committee, which he called a chairman's committee, would be made up of the elected chairmen from all the fire districts and also would have representation from the County Commission and Collier Emergency Medical Services.

    The commission and fire districts would have to approve a new committee.

    The committee isn't a mechanism for consolidation, but could help functionally consolidate the departments, Mudd said.

    "Do they need seven human resources departments and seven (information technology) departments?" Mudd asked. "Why not save some money and have one department do it?"

    The new committee can also help come up with a long-range plan for the fire departments, Mudd said.

    "When we move into the rural fringe, there may be a need for fire stations or EMS there," Mudd said. "There is no five-year plan out there now. There's a bunch of fiefdoms."

    The fire districts need to determine if they want a standardized level of service in Collier County, Mudd said.

    "Is there going to be a different service level depending on which fire district you live in?" Mudd asked.

    North Naples Fire Commissioner Joyceanna "J.A." Rautio said she has concerns about how the committee would work.

    "It's the wrong venue; it should be the fire service steering committee," Rautio said.

    Collier County government doesn't have a representative on the Steering Committee.

    Rautio said she is suspicious of the county's motives.

    "I do want to believe Henning and Mudd, but I worry about the way this is structured," Rautio said. "I think there is a concern this is the first step toward consolidation."

    Janet Vasey, a member of the Collier County Productivity Committee and a critic of the North Naples Fire District, also expressed reservations about the committee. Vasey was speaking for herself and not the Productivity Committee.

    "One of the big problems I would have involves the Sunshine Law," Vasey said. "The people on this committee won't be able to talk to each other anymore (outside of public meetings)."

    Under state law, a county-appointed committee must comply with open government rules that prohibit two members of the same panel from talking about pending issues outside of a public meeting.

    A committee that is designed to improve communication could actually make it more difficult for the fire departments to communicate with each other, Vasey said.

    East Naples Fire Commissioner Tom Cannon said he is taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the new committee.

    "It may be a good idea," Cannon said. "It could be a very good vehicle to open communication with the county."

    Cannon said he doesn't believe the county wants to consolidate the fire districts, but he shares Vasey's concerns about the Sunshine Law.

    "I think they want to improve the relationship between fire (districts) and EMS," Cannon said. "But it could restrict the flow of information between the districts."

    The county shouldn't get involved in the fire districts. It is better to just let the fire districts figure out issues like long-range plans themselves, Vasey said.

    "I think the county already has enough problems with EMS," Vasey said. "They should try to fix their own problems."

    The county has had trouble filling vacancies in EMS. It recently raised salaries to attract more applicants only to have the EMS union file a grievance, alleging the raises are illegal because they aren't being given to all EMS employees and weren't a part of the union contract.

    The relationship between Collier EMS and the independent fire districts is rocky at best. In 1998, some of the fire districts couldn't agree with EMS over medical standards and protocols for basic life support during emergency responses.

    Former EMS Chief Diane Flagg and EMS Medical Director Robert Tober were advocates of creating more fire partnerships, to cut duplication of services and reduce the number of vehicles responding to medical calls.

    Collier's independent districts resisted entering the partnerships and several refused to comply with the EMS standards and protocols for basic medical care.

    Flagg was later removed from her position. She is suing the county, charging sexual discrimination occurred, and some of her supporters have alleged the fire districts helped bring about her removal.

    Flagg cannot comment on her situation. However, Vasey, who has been a supporter of Flagg, said it was ironic that the county appears to be doing the same thing Flagg was blamed for doing.

    "Diane never wanted to consolidate the fire departments; she knew that would be a losing battle," Vasey said. "But it's just bizarre that the county seems to be doing the same thing now."
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    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
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Default Update

    Naples front | Naples archive | help

    Collier commissioners to consider forming emergency services committee

    Tuesday, May 27, 2003

    By LARRY HANNAN, ljhannan@naplesnews.com


    Collier County commissioners will consider establishing a fire and emergency medical services advisory committee at today's meeting.

    County officials say the committee is designed to create a forum for discussion among Collier County Emergency Medical Services, the independent fire districts, and the dependent fire districts. Critics contend the committee could be the first step toward the county's creating a single countywide fire district to house fire and emergency medical services.

    The committee would be made up of a representative recommended by each fire district and approved by the commission. The commission as a whole also would appoint an individual county commissioner to serve as the chairman of the committee.

    North Naples fire commissioner Joyceanna "JA" Rautio said she is opposed to the advisory committee.

    Rautio has expressed concern the advisory committee could lead to consolidation.

    "I see a lot of holes in this plan," Rautio said. "I'm just not sure I understand why this committee is needed."

    The fire districts already communicate with each other through the fire services steering committee, Rautio said.

    The committee includes officials from all the fire districts in Collier County but does not have a representative from county government.

    Rautio also was angry because she didn't know the commission was going to consider establishing the committee at today's meeting until she saw the agenda.

    "It would have been nice if they told us this was coming," Rautio said. "We haven't been informed that this is happening. I don't understand how they can say their goal is improved communication when they don't talk to us."

    East Naples Fire Commissioner Tom Cannon said he also was annoyed over the county's not telling him that creating the committee would be on the agenda.

    "I have no real problem with the issue being discussed (today)," Cannon said. "I just wish I'd found out about it before Friday afternoon."

    Cannon said he is not opposed or supportive of the advisory committee. He is taking a wait-and-see approach to see what happens.

    "There are a lot of positives that could come out of this committee," Cannon said. "It depends on how it is done."

    He is opposed to consolidation, but would like to improve communication with the county and other fire districts, Cannon said.

    County Manager Jim Mudd has said the committee isn't a mechanism for consolidation, but it would improve communication among the fire districts and could help functionally consolidate departments such as human resources so that one department could serve all the districts.

    The issue also has attracted the attention of Southwest Florida Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics Local 1826. The union represents Collier County EMS.

    Union negotiator Jim Brantley recently sent out a letter to all fire chiefs in Collier County, alleging the county is trying to consolidate EMS and fire services.

    John Dunnuck, the Collier County Public Services Department administrator, responded to Brantley's letter with a letter of his own, denying the allegations.

    "To me (Brantley's allegations) show why this advisory committee is needed," Dunnuck said. "This is a perfect example of why there is a need for more communication."

    In other business at today's meeting, commissioners will:


    Hear an update from Emergency Management on preparedness and public awareness efforts for the 2003 hurricane season that begins June 1.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    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.

  3. #3
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Post Let's Not Rush It.....Now a delay!

    NAPLES DAILY NEWS
    County delays plan for new fire, EMS advisory committee

    Wednesday, May 28, 2003

    By LARRY HANNAN, ljhannan@naplesnews.com



    Collier County officials have delayed a plan to create a new advisory committee for fire and emergency medical services.

    County commissioners on Tuesday delayed creating the fire and emergency medical services advisory committee after representatives of several of the independent fire districts expressed concern over how the committee would be set up. The issue will be reconsidered next month after more discussion with the fire districts.

    County officials say the committee is designed to create a forum for discussion among Collier County Emergency Medical Services, the independent fire districts, and the dependent fire districts. Critics contend the committee could be the first step toward the county's creating a single countywide fire district to house fire and emergency medical services.

    Fire district representatives were critical of the committee on Tuesday. In response, county officials openly questioned whether or not an existing committee made up of most of the fire districts in the county violates state Sunshine Laws.

    That committee is known as the Steering Committee and is not affiliated with Collier County government. The county attorney's office will look into the Steering Committee.

    County Commission Chairman Tom Henning said the goal of the proposed advisory committee is to improve fire service by improving the communication between fire districts.

    "I guess there are a lot of questions we still have to answer," Henning said after the creation of the committee was delayed.

    County Commissioner Jim Coletta said the advisory committee is a good idea, but its implementation plan needs to be improved.

    "We need to continue addressing people's concerns," Coletta said. "We also need to look at the legality of the Steering Committee."

    North Naples fire district commissioner Joyceanna "JA" Rautio was one of the fire officials critical of the proposed advisory committee. Rautio said a new advisory committee isn't needed because the Steering Committee already fostered communication between fire districts.

    "I feel this new committee would be a duplication of effort," Rautio said. "It would be easier to give you a monthly or quarterly reports (from the existing steering committee)."

    "I am asking you to delay this because we need to make changes," Rautio said. "I don't feel this committee is properly represented."

    Rautio said she was bothered because Naples and Marco Island wouldn't have representation on the committee. The fire districts in Marco and Naples are dependent and run by the city councils in those towns with assistance from advisory committees.

    County commissioners agreed with Rautio and instructed staff to add representatives from Naples and Marco to the committee when it came back for reconsideration.

    Rautio also was angry because the county never told the fire districts that the creation of the new advisory committee would be discussed at the Tuesday meeting.

    "I didn't find out about this until Friday," Rautio said. "I would have liked to have been notified."

    Golden Gate Fire Commissioner Chuck McMahon also opposed the new advisory committee and said the existing Steering Committee did a better job of encouraging communication between the fire districts than a new committee would.

    "If you're going to be more efficient you need to have everyone there," McMahon said. "The Steering Committee has the fire chiefs, fire commissioners, staff and others participating."

    A county-run committee wouldn't have the same number of fire district officials and fire staff participating, McMahon said.

    Collier County government doesn't have representation on the Steering Committee. A representative of the Collier County Commission is welcome to join the Steering Committee, McMahon said.

    "If they want to join us that's fine," McMahon said. "But it has be as an equal to the rest of us."

    But county officials raised doubt about the Steering Committee when they suggested it might violate the open-government Sunshine Laws.

    Steering Committee meetings usually have multiple elected representatives from the same fire district participating. County Manager Jim Mudd said he feared that was a Sunshine Law violation.

    "There are some serious concerns about how the Steering Committee is run," Mudd said. "We wouldn't want a commissioner to take part in those meetings until we know the law is being followed."

    Commissioners instructed County Attorney David Weigel to look into the issue and determine if there are any Sunshine Law violations.

    Weigel said he wasn't sure if laws were being violated.

    The Steering Committee is set up as a not-for-profit corporation that is run by the various fire districts, Weigel said.

    "It is not a committee that was set up by one particular fire district," he said.

    Rautio said the committee does follow the Sunshine Laws because it advertises all of its meetings, keeps minutes of the meetings, and allows anyone from the public to attend.

    The advertising for the meetings will be looked at, Rautio said.

    "I want to make sure our advertising says there could be multiple fire commissioners from one fire district participating," she said. "I'm not sure if we do that or not."
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    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.

  4. #4
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Post Update

    Commission may create contested fire, emergency medical services advisory committee

    Tuesday, July 29, 2003

    By LARRY HANNAN, ljhannan@naplesnews.com



    A plan to create a Collier County fire and emergency medical services advisory committee is continuing to draw criticism from commissioners in multiple fire districts.

    Collier County will consider creating the new committee at their County Commission meeting today. The committee would be comprised of elected representatives of all the independent fire districts, one elected official from each of the two municipal fire service districts and a county commissioner serving as the chairman of the committee, while representing the two dependent fire districts.

    Supporters of the committee say it will create a forum for discussion among Collier County Emergency Medical Services and the independent and dependent fire districts.

    Critics contend the committee is a duplication of existing services within the fire service steering committee that has representation from all the fire districts. That committee includes officials from all the fire districts in Collier County but does not have a representative from county government.

    Concern also exists that the new committee could be the first step toward the county creating a single countywide fire district to house fire and emergency medical services. The independent fire districts oppose this form of consolidation.

    The North Naples Fire District has come out in opposition to the new committee and the Golden Gate Fire District favors the committee.

    East Naples Fire District has not taken an official position but district Chairman Tom Cannon said he is opposed to creating the new committee.

    "I just feel this would be a duplication of services that already exist," Cannon said. "I don't think this committee is needed."

    Cannon said communication already can be accomplished within the existing steering committee.

    "I think we communicate very well now," Cannon said. "There's no reason to create a totally new committee."

    Golden Gate Fire District Commissioner Matt Hudson said the new committee could be useful but stressed he was opposed to consolidation.

    "Any time we can improve dialogue with the county, that's a good thing," Hudson said. "We are building two new fire stations now and they would have been easier to build if we'd had stronger communication between the fire district and the county."

    Hudson said the existing steering committee serves a different purpose than the new committee. The steering committee improves communication among the fire districts, and the new committee would improve communication between the fire districts and the county.

    Hudson also said he didn't believe the new committee would be a step toward consolidation.

    "This would be strictly an advisory committee," Hudson said. "It would have no power to do anything on its own."

    Golden Gate Fire Commission Chairman Chuck McMahon disagrees with Hudson. McMahon opposes the new committee but is in a tough spot because the majority of his board supports the creation of the committee.

    "I attend the steering committee meetings and I think the new committee is a big duplication of services," McMahon said. "I don't understand the concept of having another board."

    North Naples Fire Commissioner Joyceanna "JA" Rautio said a new committee isn't needed because the County Commission could appoint one of their members to the steering committee.

    "A county commissioner is welcome to attend our meetings," Rautio said. "I don't think anyone would have a problem changing the (steering committee) bylaws to allow the commissioners to have a representative at the meetings."

    Rautio said the County Commission seems to want to control the new advisory committee and isn't satisfied with just having a representative at the steering committee meetings.

    "I don't really understand why the county commissioner has to be the chairman of the committee," Rautio said.

    If the commissioners create the new committee, North Naples will refuse to participate, Rautio said.

    John Dunnuck, the Collier County public services administrator, said the new committee is designed to improve communication between the county and the fire districts.

    He added the committee is not designed to encourage consolidation or take power away from the fire districts.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    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.

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