Fire District Consolidation? A Study?

In a 2016 Straw Ballot, County voters authorized a study to determine the benefits of combining all Fire Agencies in unincorporated Collier County into two (2) or one (1).

This initiative stalled and the possible benefits for improved medical, rescue and fire performance were not fully assessed. Nor were potential tax reductions from increased efficiencies and cost consolidation.

Thereafter in 2018, the North Collier Fire and Immokalee Fire Agencies requested additional funding, proposing a Fire Fee over and above ad valorem taxes. Voters rejected additional taxes – 79% North Collier Fire and 67% Immokalee Fire.

Question: should Collier County Commissioners reactivate the voter approved 2016 Study of combining the current three (3) Independent Fire Agencies, partially or fully?

Recommendation: Engage a Professional Consultant with the participation of the three (3) Independent Fire Agencies, and the County Productivity Committee. Then bring back the issue to voters / taxpayers in 2024 or 2025.

It is noted that the County operates one (1) Sheriff’s Department, one (1) Emergency Management Department and one (1) emergency Medical Service Ambulance Department. Is it plausible a Study will document improved efficacy from a combination of three (3) Agencies into two (2) or one (1)?

Interesting facts pertinent to the Study:

All Fire Agency responses are based upon “closest, available, appropriate unit” disregarding Agency borders.

The average cost of each response (total budget divided by responses) ranged from $2,287 (North Collier Fire), $1,976 (Greater Naples Fire) and $1,482 (Immokalee Fire).

84% of Fire Agency responses are medical, 15% are rescue/other, and only 1% are fire.

The three (3) Independent Fire Agencies are funded by different tax rates based on the assessed value of residential and commercial property. The rates vary from 1 mill (North Collier) 1.5 mills (Greater Naples), and 3.75 mills (Immokalee).

Immokalee Fire states that its equipment and personnel are inadequate to respond to all   emergencies.

Let your County Commissioner know whether you support a revived Study to improve possible medical, rescue and fire benefits for yourself and neighbors.