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District commissioners vote to reassess current assessment methodology

April 4, 2018
By MELISSA BILL ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District unanimously agreed to hire an attorney-consultant to help find ways to amend current assessment methodology.

"The new methodology needs to be more fair and equitable. I think it will then get the support needed," said Vice-Chair Linda Carter.

One of the issues with the current methodology revolves around the low fees designated to the empty lots.

"Presently there are about 90,000 vacant lots within the Lehigh Acre's fire district, which makes up a large part of the land we service" said Fire Chief Robert DiLallo.

According to the district's legal counsel, Richard Pringle, with so many vacant parcels in Lehigh Acres, it would take a rapid build-out of these parcels to meet the needs of the district under the current methodology.

The fire district voted in favor of working with Attorney Mark G. Lawson who spoke before the fire board back in October 2017.

He went over a methodology that would make the special assessments fair to both residents and businesses that own property in Lehigh.

During Lawson's presentation he went over a methodology in which the assessment relies on the economic determination that counts each parcel of land within a community as an obligation for the first district to make services available, whether it is a vacant lot, a lot with a home on it or a lot with a business.

Another topic on the agenda was the rebuilding of fire stations 101 and 102, which were severely damaged during Hurricane Irma.

"We are still in negotiation with our insurance company. All mitigation has been completed by Bell 4, but now we want to open up bids and find a different company to finish putting the stations back together," said DiLallo.

The fire district is now in the process of accepting bids from various contracting companies to both finish existing work on the two stations as well as provide services for future projects.

Under existing business, Deputy Chief Rudy Naranjo spoke about current negotiations with builders to find the right location for a new fire station and possible trade opportunities with a current district property.

"We had a meeting with Lennar Homes who might have a parcel of land we can use," Naranjo said.

Assistant Chief of Administration Ralph Ketron went over current crew training reports.

"Right now we are training the guys with the use of our new brush truck. We are also doing a lot of EMS training," said Ketron.

Commissioner Chair Cathy Kruse asked about active trainings with the Lee County Sheriff's Department in light of the school shooting incidents across the country.

"We are doing some active training right now and looking into getting protective gear for our crews," said DiLallo.

Anita Kressel, the district's finance manager, also reported that their financial audit was completed and came back with a clean report.

Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District will hold its next regular monthly board meeting on Tuesday, April 24, at 5 p.m., at the station #104 conference room at 3102 16th Street SW.



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