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Fire district holds final budget workshop

By Staff | Aug 21, 2019

During the Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District special meeting on Aug. 14, board members approved a motion to place a notice in the paper notifying the public of the upcoming hearing to adopt the final rate resolution.

The notice will include a date and location change of the public hearing to adopt the final rate and additional information on the assessment rate increase.

“It will go over the maximum rates that can be charged in the future and a direct reference to the ballot language on the future assessment rates. In an effort to better clarify things,” Attorney Richard Pringle said.

On Aug. 14, the board adopted a preliminary rate resolution for fiscal year 2019/2020. The preliminary rate came in at 5.79 percent plus applicable allowable fees.

Under new business, the district voted in favor of moving forward to hire a public relations officer. Fire Chief Robert DiLallo made a request to the board to bring on the position to oversee the fire district’s public and media relations needs.

According to DiLallo, the person hired would answer to and work directly with him and administration.

“I feel this position is important with all the new information going around and the things that the district has been trying to get the public involved in, such as voting during the recent referendum. We held several meetings to address the public and no one showed up. We had a lot of negative social media that was spreading around and we don’t have the resources or the proper training to address those items. It’s imperative and fair to our citizens that we get the proper information out there,” DiLallo explained.

The PRO job description and requirements discussed and approved included: required bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications/Journalism; minimum three years’ experience, but five preferred; knowledge of local media outlets; with a salary range between $60 and $70 thousand.

Commissioner Linda Carter also suggested that the person filling the position live in the area, know what’s currently going on within the district and have local media contacts.

The board then moved on to discuss items on its proposed 2019/2020 budget.

DiLallo went over changes and modifications to various lines on the budget including the section on its fund balance carried forward.

“There was a lot of discussions about the fund balance carried forward and transparency to the public. There was some confusion as to why that money is there. One of the items was a construction loan of $8.9 million that was added in there, which made it look like revenue. We also had $809,000 added for the committee to secure that loan and then our standard reserves which is at $10,354,809,” DiLallo explained.

According to DiLallo, those items were broken down as requested by the board.

DiLallo also commented to the status of FEMA reimbursements from Hurricane Irma.

“We still have some outstanding FEMA money that’s still due to us. We did receive the reimbursement for crew trailers, but are still waiting on a couple hundred thousand. Some of that money from staffing reimbursements,” DiLallo said.

The Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District will hold its next regular meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 27, at 5 p.m., and a special meeting announced for Sept. 11 at 6 p.m., to be held inside Lehigh Acres Municipal Services District’s Community Room, 601 East County Lane, Lehigh Acres.