Reminder: At the first meeting that Lehigh Acres Fire Board Commissioner Kevin Shea attended as our elected commissioner, his first motion was that he was to be paid by the department. Meanwhile, two years ago, during the start of the financial crisis, our elected commissioners opted to not get paid, because it was a duty to the citizens and to the fire department. Also, Shea stressed that the advisers, who were already working with the department, should get an increase their salary. Is Mr. Shea trying to help the department get out of debt or contribute to the decline of the department?
The truth about volunteers. He mentioned in his letter that many districts utilize volunteers in place of paid firefighters. You get what you pay for! Volunteers are utitlized in places that have less than 2500 residents and cover less than 25 square miles. He fails to remind the public that Lehigh has approximately 80,000 residents and covers 143 square miles. There are still costs for volunteers: insurance, physicals, gear, uniforms, training, and not to mention the ISO rating will go up, therefore homeowners insurance will increase. Do you really trust an 18 year old, non-experienced, volunteer to protect your home and save your loved ones? Do you want to pay more in homeowners insurance? What happens when this 18 year old gets a paid firefighting job? Can somebody please research the departments that have volunteers and their statistics compared to Lehigh Acres?
Firefighter loyalty? The firefighters who were hired under the Safer Grant were hired being told more or less you will have a job for 2 years, but after that, you're gone. Obviously, like any other responsible adult, they want to ensure that they can provide for their family and have job security. So it makes perfect sense that they continue looking for a more stable and promising job opportunity. Personally, if I was told I had a job, but only for two years, as a responsible adult, I would be considering other options to ensure a future for myself and family.
Commissioner Shea stated that he did not want to accept the Safer grant if offered in the future. Really? Well as an elected official, he has a duty-- to the citizens to accept the Safer grant, to keep the services as they are now. If the Safer grant is not accepted, there will be 46 layoffs, station closures, loss of ambulance services, increased response times, and as former Commissioner Hemmingway said, a noose.
Speaking of ambulance services, it's a bonus service that Lehigh Citizens get. Everybody in this county MUST pay Lee County EMS taxes (that includes mutual aid from Lee County, when our EMS services are unavailable, and also covers the dispatch) These taxes will be paid no matter what. So, Mr. Shea, if you get rid of the ambulance service (that the fire department provides as an added bonus to the citizens), I am assuming you will be motioning to decrease the millage rate because the citizens will be losing a service that they've had since the 1980's. Can someone please explain to me WHY our fire department is trying to get rid of the ambulance service when so many other departments (Bonita, San Carlos, Estero, and Cape Coral) are all FIGHTING to have their own ambulance services? The county commissioners will not allow those departments to have their own ambulance services. Hmm.. I wonder why? Perhaps because they generate so much money from them? What a concept.
He suggests that our firefighters should take additional concessions. Mr. Shea, and Lehigh residents, do you know what concessions your firefighters have already taken? They gave up approximately 20% per employee equaling $1.5 million . Perhaps Mr. Shea and Governor Scott meet for lunch to talk about how they can further take from middle class and public employees. Let's not forget that the firefighters just took another 3%, on top of their 20% from last year, due to Rick Scott's wonderful changes to the pension plan.
I urge the Lehigh citizens to attend the commission meetings. I urge the citizens as well as the commissions to get answers to the questions I've addressed and the statistics that I've mentioned. I know that the other commissioners are smart enough not to drink the Kool-Aid of Mr. Shea and I can only hope that our citizens don't either.
Lehigh Acres Citizen,