Does county need more paid firemen? Proposed assessment would fund fire and rescue services

Glades County Commissioners debated the need for more paid firemen at the last regular meeting of the year Dec. 13 at the court house in Moore Haven.

The commission approved an ordinance that helps create a fire assessment for fire and emergency services.  To actually impose the tax, further action must be taken in 2017.

Commissioner John Ahern said he doubted the community could afford a fire assessment. He said if the state changes guidelines for volunteer fire departments, that could assist the county.

Commissioner Donna Storter Long said the legislature has changed the 4 cent per acre fire tax on agriculture. She said many homeowners would save on home insurance costs if fire protection was available.

Commissioner Tim Stanley said if the public supported more fire protection, he would support their wishes.

Commissioner Donald Strenth estimated fire protection would cost the homeowner less than 50 cents per day.  He wanted to poll the residents for their feelings. He said if the commission didn’t approve this, they would have to start all the way back at square one with fire service. He said a referendum to see how the voters feel about a fire tax would not bother him one bit.

Commissioner Long said an election would be too expensive.

Resident J.T Long said volunteer fire departments are obsolete. He said new residents are used to paying a fire tax.

“It is very important for the growth of the community to have a fire department,” he said.
Other residents argued that low income residents can’t afford this.

Commissioner Ahern said certain communities want fire protection while others don’t. He said a real fire department would require 20-25 people.

“We want to explore improvement of volunteers,” he said. “Let’s get more people trained as volunteers.  People are scared to death about another tax.”

The motion was approved, 3-2, with Commissioner Pryor and Ahern casting dissenting votes.

In other business at the Tuesday meeting, William Gregory Margerum was honored for his contributions to the community, Mr. Margerum  passed away on Nov. 18.  He had served on the county planning board between 2007 and 2014.

Commissioner Strenth, who was sworn into office in November, lives in Lakeport and represents District 3 that covers Lakeport and Palmdale. He said he is excited about the election and he looks forward to do whatever he can to help his districts and make the county a better place to live.  He admitted he has a lot of studying to do to learn the ins and outs of county government.

“The county has a wonderful staff, at least 99 percent of it, from the manager on down.  We do have some problems but all in all I think we have a great organization.”

Strenth emphasized that it will take the entire community working together to improve the economy and the county as a whole.

“I cross my fingers and toes about business in Moore Haven. If everybody works together we can accomplish a lot.  Nobody does anything by themselves it takes the community to make things happen,” he said. Commissioners attended the annual Christmas luncheon at the Doyle Conner building and celebrated the holiday season with county employees.

In other action at the Tuesday meeting;

• The board approved a proclamation to honor the agriculture and labor program for its work on behalf of migrant farm workers for the past 49 years.

• The commission voted unanimously a push to rezone 55 acres on Wayman Road from open use agriculture to agriculture residential to match the future land use map for this property.

The board approved a temporary ordinance to ban outdoor burning due to growing drought and dry conditions.  This does not affect agriculture burns that have proper permits from the Florida Forest Service.

The ordinance was approved (3-2) with Commissioners Donna Storter Long and Chairman Weston Pryor in opposition.

• The board created a non-ad valorem special assessments to help pay for road and utility assessments for the Love’s Travel Center. This creates the ability to impose the assessment but further action is needed to actually impose the assessment.

Commissioner Storter Long said this only affects the road between Love’s and the County business park.

• A grant will be sought through the Community Development Block Grant program to build a sewer plant in Washington Park. The county will apply for $700,000.  Residents who live on the streets served by sewer would be required to hook up to the system.

The county cancelled a bid to demolish the Glades Inn after staff couldn’t reach agreement with Unlimited Restoration. The project will be rebid in the New Year.

Clyde Johnson Construction was awarded a contract to make improvements at the Ortona Cemetery.

• The Ortona project will expand the gazebo and concrete slab. The bid approved was $48,534.  The county will pursue the independent purchase of folding chairs.

The commission will prioritize work on County Route 74 and route 721as they seek state dollars in the Florida Department of Transportation five year work plan.

• New classes for commercial truck drivers will begin in January at the new job training center.

Commissioner Long also encouraged the county to review the employee performances at the Community Development Department. She explained she had received numerous complaints from constituents about rude employees in that department.

Special to Glades County Democrat

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment