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Reader doesn’t want assessment fees to fund fire department

February 12, 2014
Lehigh Acres Citizen

To the editor:

In the articles I have read it states that 20 counties and 32 cities have had fire department fees developed by GSG Consulting. A quick Google search shows there are 3,144 counties in the USA and over 35,000 cities and towns. GSG consulting has figured out fees for any tiny percentage of counties and cities in the U.S.

GSG also states that the fees will be different for vacant lots than for lots with homes on them. From what I have read most fires in Lehigh are brush fires occurring on vacant lots. Therefore it would be logical to charge a higher fee for a vacant lot than for a lot with a house and family living on it.

If I was a skeptic, I might say that GSG is charging lower fees on vacant lots because many lots are owned by banks and large investors and GSG is helping the big banks avoid paying their fair share of fire department usage.

Fire Board Chairman Becker says that the budget now for the fire department is $14 million and he wants to raise $15 million a year in taxes. What is Mr. Becker going do with the extra million bucks?

The article also states that from 2009 to the present the fire department is responding to 33 percent more calls with 34 less firefighters.

There are no out of control fires raging in Lehigh, nor are there people sitting in the streets waiting for ambulances. This means that the fire department was abusing the taxpayer in the past and padding their payroll budget with salaries and unnecessary employees.

So can we really trust them to tell the truth now?

Presently equipment is intentionally being abused by its being used for jobs it was not intended to be used for. Fire engines are very expensive and not made to respond to fender benders or slip and fall accidents. Fire engines are built to put out fires, that's it!

By using fire engines to respond to minor traffic accidents and slip and fall injuries the fire chief is intentionally causing the fire engines to wear out prematurely and require their replacement sooner than needed.

The fear tactics being used by the fire chief, threatening to end all ambulance service if he does not get the money he wants and claiming house insurance rates will rise even higher than they already are is disgusting. For this threat against the taxpayer the fire chief should be fired.

Fortunately for the taxpayer and unfortunately for Lehigh firefighters we just don't have enough fires to keep a large fire department in business. We need a bare bones department to fight fires and we need the ambulance service to partner with the local Lee County Hospital system to provide ambulance service here.

May I suggest some fixes.

1) The first responder to a traffic accident should be the deputy sheriffs. They can then determine if a fire engine or ambulance is needed. I realize that this will require deputies to leave their radar traps and go to accident scenes but I am sure the people of Lehigh can get used to less radar traps and lower fire department taxes.

By requiring less fire engine responses we can get along with less fire fighters.

2) I notice that the third shift of firefighters seems to sleep in the firehouses. Why? Any other third shift worker from the local cop to the factory or restaurant worker is expected to do the same work on third shift as is done on first and second shift. By requiring third shift firefighters to maintain the equipment just as the other shifts do will make less fire fighters needed.

The people of Lehigh should remember their children are watching them. If you behave like cowards and cave into threats and fear mongering tactics from them, not only won't your children respect their cowardly parents, but you won't be able to look yourself in the mirror without seeing a coward looking back.

Just say no to higher taxes.

Walt O'Brien

Lehigh Acres



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