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District to talk revenue options at special meeting

March 13, 2019
By MELISSA BILL ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

The Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District will hold a special meeting to discuss a simplified fire assessment.

The meeting for today, March 13, at 6 p.m. at Station 104 at 3102 16th St SW.

The purpose of the meeting is to go over fire assessment methodology and other revenue options and how this would benefit taxpayers.

Chief Robert DiLallo requested the session at the last district meeting held Feb. 26.

According to DiLallo, this meeting is important and it will give the community a better understanding as to why finding an additional revenue source is imperative at this time.

"We had to renew our ambulance service agreement with Lee County. They regulate and hold the rights to our transport service. This time they only renewed it for one year instead of two due to non-compliant response times. They are now waiting to see how we plan to remedy current response times," DiLallo said.

A guideline given by Lee County Commissioners was that Lehigh's fire district must keep response times under nine minutes.

According to DiLallo, the district is trying to meet the current response times for emergencies, but it's nearly impossible given the expansiveness of Lehigh and the growing population of North Sunshine.

"We already knew we had a response time issue in places like the northern part of Sunshine Boulevard. The area has grown significantly over the past few years," DiLallo said. "Right now it takes us about 15 to 20 minutes to get the North Sunshine area and we have much higher call volumes."

According to DiLallo, the district is in the process of finding a solution to the long response times by opening a sixth fire station on northern Sunshine.

"We already purchased land on West 17th off Sunshine for the new fire station. We have designed the fire station, but can't fund the purchase of it or staff at this time. We need that fire station to become compliant with the county," said DiLallo.

To quicken response times and receive its certificate of public convenience and necessity, the fire district must find additional revenue to move forward on the build-out of the new station and.

Lee County expects a progress report from the district on plans to meet these guidelines.

Other items discussed included a proposal to move commission meetings to a later hour and a different location. Commissioner Lucia Sherman made the motion in an effort to get better attendance and more face-to-face communication with residents.

"The motion was not approved, but will be discussed again later. We have changed the times in the past but it did not change the response from the public. We normally have one or two people at the most at our monthly meetings," said DiLallo.

The board also discussed the status of current negotiations for a land swap between LAFCRD and Cookies and Crackers Corp.

"We are negotiating a land swap of preserve land for the new Station 102 site to accommodate placing the apparatus bay in line with the traffic-controlled intersection. They presented us with a list of demands for the land swap. We are getting close to making a deal," said DiLallo.

The board also voted in favor of a change to move old business agenda item "Legislation to Amend Chapter 191, Florida Statutes" to "District Revenue Sources".

"The Chapter 191 amendment is not going anywhere at the state level. This was just one of many options we looked at for additional revenue sources. Since we are considering all options, we thought District Revenue Sources would be a better title," said DiLallo.

Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District will hold its next regular monthly board meeting on Tuesday, March 26, at 5 p.m., at the station #104 conference room at 3102 16th Street SW.



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