There are five taxpayer funded agencies primarily providing medical responses in unincorporated Collier County. CC-EMS, CCSO, and three Independent Fire Agencies (Greater Naples, Immokalee, North Collier, their budgets over $80 million), backed up by Marco Island and Naples Fire Departments as needed.
North Collier Fire is a 2014 successful consolidation of North Naples and Big Corkscrew Fires.
Greater Naples Fire, a 2014 successful consolidation of East Naples and Golden Gate Fires, added Isles of Capri Fire in 2015, and added operation of the I-75 County Station and Ochopee Fire under a management agreement in 2016.
Unincorporated County residents in March 2016 supported continued consolidation of these 3 Independent Fire Agencies, by a majority vote in 51 of 53 voter precincts, and a 62.7% favorable total.
However 2 1/2 years later in August 2018, both Immokalee Fire and North Collier Fire indicated they needed more money to operate because personnel/benefit costs were skyrocketing and Fire Agency financial reserves were declining. Thus they proposed an additional “Fire Fee”.
Residents declaring “no tax increases and no more fees”, voted against the North Collier “Fire Fee” by 79.3% and the Immokalee “Fire Fee” by 66.6%.
There are over 100 personnel above the station level, plus Commissioners, currently staffed to operate the 3 separate Agencies. Not all duplicated/triplicated positions may be necessary if these Agencies are consolidated.
The compensation/benefit money saved by reductions in duplication may better be spent on additional fire stations, equipment, and responding personnel nearer to current and future population centers.
Is it now time for the Fire Commissioners to continue the leadership needed for further cost cutting by implementing the necessary cooperation & consolidation actions their residents/tax payers supported by their vote over 3 years ago?
Marvin Easton Collier Citizen’s Council