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Fire district mulls salary for new chief

April 3, 2013
By MEL TOADVINE ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

The Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District's board of commissioners agreed to advertise the salary range for a new fire chief after board attorney Richard Pringle said the employment ad had been placed on two fire association websites. He said the consultant working for the fire board said a salary range was needed to give those who had called or contacted her about the position.

The range of salary had not been discussed at the board meeting last month; however, other details including responsibilities had been addressed.

Veteran Firefighter John Wayne, a former battalion officer who has been with the department for several years, was appointed to fill the position following the resignation of the former chief last November. Wayne said he is interested in the position on a full-time basis, but the board decided to advertise for candidates anyway.

Article Photos

Lehigh Fire Dept. Chief John Wayne, right, presents a plaque showing appreciation for the service of Will Adorno who is leaving the department for medical reasons.

After a lengthy discussion, the board came up with a range of between $110,000 to $130,000 range. Board member Jackie Danis made the final motion to set the salary range within those figures.

Board attorney Pringle noted that the upward amount was not necessarily a cap but a part of a range. Board Chairman Larry Becker said the range was okay with him but the applicants should know their can negotiations in any interview.

At the beginning of the regularly scheduled meeting - held on the last Tuesday evening of each month at the fire station on 16th Street and Sunshine Blvd.- Interim Chief John Wayne asked Will Adorno to come before the board where he was recognized for his outstanding work over the years he has been a firefighter.

In an emotional presentation, Wayne presented Adorno, 37, with a plaque showing the deep appreciation for his work with the department.

Adorno is leaving the fire department to recuperate from a medical condition that occurred while he was on duty.

Several members of his family and fellow firefighters were on hand and gave him a standing ovation during the presentation which was followed by a brief break in the meeting in which refreshments were made available.

Wayne also announced that Mark Spear was in the audience and that it was his 25th anniversary at working for the department.

Attorney Pringle also announced that legislation to replace the way the community is taxed by the fire district is moving through committees in Tallahassee. Rep. Mathew Caldwell and others have sponsored a bill that would allow all fire districts, known as special districts, to use assessments than ad valorem taxes to help finance the department.

The bill, which is expected to pass muster and end up on the governor's desk, affects all of the special district fire companies in the state.

One the legislation is passed, it is put up to the voters on a referendum asking them to okay this new way of supporting the department.

The question would come up in the 2014 election for voters consideration.

Board member Linda Carter said the community should be made aware of what changes are going to be made, but Chairman Becker said that would come in the future, but at this time, efforts should be made at passing the legislation in Tallahassee.

The idea to assess all properties in Lehigh with such a fee has been discussed by the former board but no action was ever taken. With the new board taking over this past November, one of the first orders of business was to contact Rep. Mathew Caldwell, (R-Lehigh Acres) and ask for assistance in establishing such legislation. Caldwell even appeared at a past board meeting to listen to board members' concerns about financing the fire district.

In the past few years, the fire district has received less revenue because of the Great Recession which saw property values plummet in Lehigh and elsewhere. It came at a time after the department had constructed two new fire stations in Lehigh.

Firefighters faced layoffs because of financial problems. But a FEMA grant has been presented to the Lehigh fire district twice which pays for salaries of firefighters. The requests to FEMA were made by the previous chief who resigned last fall.



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