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Fire chief announces cuts to meet next budget

August 26, 2009

One day before the regular meeting of the Lehigh Acres Fire and Rescue District, Fire Chief Don Adams announced 38 layoffs and one less ambulance - two weeks hence - to meet the next budget.

Lehigh Acres will lose 35 firefighters and three administrative employees "two weeks from today," to meet the new budget. The long expected cut is due to a 49 percent deficit in revenue, due to the decline in property value, which resulted in greatly reducing the amount of property filling the county's coffers for the coming year.

Fire Chief Don Adams reassures residents, however, that even with taking out of service one engine and two ambulances, the department will still operate with four engines and three rescue units (ambulances).

Article Photos

Liliane Parbot-Johnson

Lehigh Fire Chief Don Adams in his office last week.

"We will continue dispatching out of five stations," Adams said. "Even with the reduction of personnel, we are going to continue to provide the highest level of service possible."

The department has six stations. Station 105 at 636 S. Thomas Sherwin Ave., at the corner of Bell and Milwaukee boulevards, built nearly two years ago, will house only administrative personnel, according to Adams, cutting from there one engine and one ambulance. A total of 123 firefighters, including paramedics and EMTs are authorized, however, the department has operated with no more than 111, and after the cuts, the number will be down to 72 firefighters.

"We'll temporarily close this station, until we see what happens in the future," Adams said. "If the economy increases and we get grants, then we will rehire the firefighters. This is done to balance the budget."

It was at Station 105 that media representatives were briefed by Adams, one at a time throughout the morning Tuesday, Aug. 18.

The cuts had long been feared and seemed unavoidable, so a number of firefighters have sought to protect their families and homes by being pro-active and therefore avoiding being unemployed.

"Some have already obtained jobs, and some are in the process," Adams said. "Already we had some who have given their two weeks notice, because we knew back in May, based on the revenue ..."

One of the firefighters is going to work in Cape Coral and another for the Lee County EMS, according to the chief.

"They are good firefighters," Adams said of his crew members, "and I think they will find jobs, eventually, somewhere."

Adams was asked whether Lehigh Acres is experiencing a decrease in population, as was recently reported for the whole state of Florida.

"When you drive around, you see empty homes, but we have no statistics," he said.



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