Lehigh Acres firefighters and emergency medical personnel will stop getting paper paychecks and instead have their earnings directly deposited into their banking accounts.
This was decided by the Lehigh Acres Fire and Rescue District at its meeting on Oct. 29.
Chief John Wayne said the fire district had recently requested that all employees utilize the direct deposit method of receiving their biweekly pay and all employees have agreed, including fire commissioners themselves. He said the result was the elimination of paper checks, the required envelopes, and associated man hours to produce, print sign, and deliver them.
The fire district would need to purchase additional checks and envelopes to continue the practice which he said would bring about unnecessary costs. Fire commissioners nodded in agreement.
Already most companies and many small businesses are using direct deposit as a way to pay their employees and save money instead of using paper checks.
In an executive summary memo, Chief Wayne said the department's pay schedule will be biweekly (26 pay schedule cycles per year). Each pay schedule will begin on Sunday at 8 a.m. and end on the second Sunday thereafter at 7:59 a.m.
Payday for each pay schedule will be the Thursday immediately following the end of the preceding pay schedule. Employees will be paid for all hours worked during the preceding pay schedule and all appropriate supplemental pay due such as overtime and other paid leave, etc., will be part of the pay schedule
For the second month, commissioners have discussed a policy to formalize a standard operating policy regarding a so-called ride-along program. This is when someone requests that they be allowed to ride along on a fire truck or an ambulance, usually to watch the work of fire and emergency personnel professionals.
Chief Wayne said in an executive summary to the board that considerations should be given to offer an awareness of the daily duties and responses that district operational personnel encounter each shift on duty. He said the standard operating procedure should outline the parameters of the program with a goal to supplement the education and experience of the individual requesting the ride-along on either the fire trucks or the ambulances with consideration be given to transport capabilities and heavy call volume.
The board of fire commissioners on Sept. 24 discussed the ride along program but tabled any action and directed its staff to bring the topic back up on last week's agenda.
However, it was tabled again and the board's attorney Richard Pringle was asked to come up with a legal policy that would include such things as how requests for "ride-alongs" are handled, background checks of those who want to ride along, hot to come up with an agreements that are signed requiring those who do ride to follow all rules and regulations of the department and the orders of a shift commander.
Commissioners asked that HIPPA (privacy) requirements be addressed and there be an understanding of liability issues.
It was noted that there are rarely requests by the public to ride along with fire fighters and emergency personnel. From time to time, a college student may ask to ride along, but again it is rare. Such ride-alongs would include requests by those in the media who may see possibilities of published newspaper stories for articles or blogs on the Internet.
Pringle said he would have a policy for commissioners to look at during the next meeting.
In other business, the board voted to separate the CERT program from the fire district and allow it to run as a separate entity.
CERT is an acronym for the Community Emergency Response Team program which educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response operations.
Using the training learned in the classroom and during exercises, CERT members can assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event when professional responders are not immediately available to help.
CERT members also are encouraged to support emergency response agencies by taking a more active role in emergency preparedness projects in their community.
Jorge Tejada, who heads up the local CERT program, was at the meeting and said he understand the commissioners' actions.
"It's a good program and I would hate to see it go away," he told them.
It was an unanimous vote by commissioners to separate CERT from any sponsorship by the fire district.
Commissioner Linda Carter said during the meeting that there were only a few people so far who have shown interest in being on such a team. CERT has been supported by Carter who often spends time at meetings explaining how important it would be to have trained volunteers to assist in Lehigh if there was a horrific situation during a hurricane or any other "acts of God" events.
Pringle said CERT could file for nonprofit status and members of the commission suggested such things as fundraisers be held to support costs for training and any other items needed to make it a successful program.
Chief Wayne told commissioners that the department had responded to some 862 incidents during September as compared to 888 incident responses from August of 2013. This is a decrease in responses for a 30-day period of approximately 3 percent, Wayne said.
In September of this year, 862 dispatched responses increased approximately 16 percent for the same reporting period of 2012 (743). This increase, he said is consistent with last month's report.
He reported that Fire Truck 102 remains as the business truck and engine with 299 responding incidents responding to approximately 35 percent of the district's emergencies. He said R102 was the busiest rescue (310 incidents) in the district responding to about 36 percent, too.
There were a total of five structure fires for September and the estimated value to these structures prior to the fire was $742,000. Approximated loss to these structures was estimated at $105,950 with an estimated save value of $636,550.
Chief Wayne noted that the number of brush fires in the district for September and October were normally low due to the rainy season.
But he said the department is gearing up for the dry season when brush fires are often reported.
The next meeting of the fire board is on Nov. 18 at 5 p.m. and is held at Station 104 which is located on the corner of 16th St. off of Sunshine Blvd. North.