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Fire district executes agreement with elections supervisor

By Staff | May 8, 2019

The Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District has reached an agreement with the Supervisor of Elections Office for its June referendum.

District Attorney Richard Pringle, along with Mark Lawson’s co-counsel Jamie Dinkins were on-hand to update the board and the public in attendance at the April 30 meeting.

“The agreement has been signed and the notice of elections and ballot question have been interpreted in Spanish as required by law. The notice of the elections was in the newspaper today with an updated district boundary map,” Pringle said. “There were also an extra 16,000 postcards forwarded to those who voted during the last election.”

Pringle announced that early voting is scheduled one week prior, from May 28 to June 1 at the Lee County Regional Library. Hours of polls will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. On the day of the special election, June 4, poll hours will be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The fire district also will add a quick search tool to their website which will allow property owners to search the site and find a proposed assessment value for their parcel of land.

Pringle continued to say that it’s up to the voters of the district to approve the special assessment. If that occurs, then it will come back to the fire board to finalize and implement the new fee.

The referendum on a new assessment methodology is in response to a need in finding additional district revenue sources. Currently Lehigh Acres is on ad valorem tax, which the district says is just not adequate enough to keep up with the rapid expansion of Lehigh Acres and provide fire, rescue and EMT service to residents. The resolution up for vote is to switch to a non-ad valorem assessment methodology.

Right now, the fee for lots with buildings is $332.15, regardless of the value of the structure. Owners of the nearly 90,000 vacant lots in Lehigh currently pay $25.29 per lot.

Under a proposed simplified fee structure, the Lehigh Acres fire District would assess a base fee of up to $165 per year on every parcel; plus a $1 per $1,000 of value of improvements thereon using property appraiser data.

The board also approved the addition of new exemption codes within categories including vacant institutional properties, homes for the aged, common elements and those that fall under mining sites, subsurface, recreational areas, roadways and submerged lands.

The fire district received a positive review for its 2017/2018 annual audit. Jeffrey Tuscan, CPA and partner at Tuscan & Company presented the audit and its findings in regards to financial health.

“The audit determined no instances of non-compliance,” Tuscan said.

While Tuscan commented that ambulance collections had jumped during the fiscal year, he also added that the current ad-valorem assessment had reached a plateau.

Other agenda items included the approval of a proposed Financial Specialist position within the district.

Commissioner Chair Cathy Kruse motioned approval of the job description, but asked Chief DiLallo and administrative staff to research the current salary ranges of that particular position within other fire districts.

Under department reports, Chief DiLallo reported a fairly active fire season but that crews were doing a great job responding to incidents and utilizing a new crash.

“I’m happy to report that our new crash truck has been a great success,” DiLallo said.

The Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District will hold a special meeting on today, May 8, at 6 p.m. and holds their regular meetings on the fourth Tuesday of each month at 5 p.m.

Meeting are held at fire station 104 located at 3102 16th Street SW, Lehigh Acres.