Guest column: Duane Billlington ... Batten gets it on fire consolidation

Photo with no caption

Guest commentary

Daily News columnist Brent Batten gets it.

The fire commissioners of the various districts were told in 2006 to consolidate and they could have emergency medical services (EMS).

North Naples, under the leadership of Commissioner Christopher Lombardo, said they weren't waiting. They proceeded to hire people away from EMS at higher wages.

North Naples has only had the full benefit of those employees for about a year. Its officials claim they can provide better service than Collier County EMS. Recently it took 14 minutes for North Naples units to arrive at the location of a call 1.5 miles from its Station 41 on Pine Ridge Road.

East Naples Fire Commissioner Tom Cannon criticized County Commissioner Jim Coletta for wanting to be diligent in proceeding forward. This is the same Tom Cannon who gave his fire district employees two sets of raises in 2009 during the current recession while we were in serious economic decline. One raise was retroactive to the beginning of 2008. In 2011, he laid off eight firefighters and cut wages because the district couldn't afford to pay them.

Lombardo and Cannon shouldn't be pointing at anyone. They need time for honest reflection. Perhaps that is the problem.

It took until the day before the subject meeting for the fire commissioners and chiefs to take another look at consolidation. They want to dust off and update the 2007 fire chiefs' study that says no one will lose their job because of consolidation. The report produced an organizational chart that gave everyone a job. Goodbye, efficiencies and savings.

How would our Gov. Rick Scott handle unnecessary duplication and consolidation? Would Mitt Romney's Bain Capital operate like the chiefs?

We now have six fire chiefs instead of one; six assistant chiefs instead of one; five deputy chiefs instead of three; eight battalion/division chiefs instead of three — all supervising 23 captains, 63 lieutenants, 90 firefighter/engineers and 122 firefighters. Eliminate just the unnecessary chiefs and you have annual savings of over $4 million per year.

Policy is set by 19 fire commissioners who get paid as much as $18,000 each to watch over a $52 million to $55 million combined annual budget.

Collier County government is overseen by five commissioners who set policy for an over $850 million annual budget.

North Naples has plans to build an unneeded station 1.4 miles from Golden Gate's headquarters station. Potential savings for not constructing and equipping the station are $3 million to $3.5 million. Add more savings for avoidance of building maintenance and utilities costs as well as another $1 million plus every year for wage and benefit avoidance.

The fire chiefs claim that 90 percent of fire services provide EMS. The National Fire Protection Association ( reports 41 percent do not provide EMS service and only 15 percent provide both basic and advanced life services; 44 percent provide just basic.

They don't play well with others. It's time for the citizen-taxpayers of Collier County to take control.

I take sole responsibility for this essay.

Billington is a past candidate for fire commissioner and a founding member of the Taxpayer Action Group and a founding member of the Collier Community Alliance. He currently is on the board of the Golden Gate Area Civic Association.

© 2012 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Comments » 5

zoaves writes:

Hey Billington.... I guess your right, Batten gets it!!!
The more NON-sense he can print about fire departments, paramedics, and police services the more papers the naples daily sells,
This is a self serving attitude where he recieves the benefit of getting paid because he gets to keep his job.
Yeah... he gets it; and I am selling the Skyway bridge for a good price ????

You mave failed geography in school Duanne because apparently you are no Christopher Columbus. Not only do you not live in North Naples but you pay your $44 dollars a yr service to Golden Gate fire which happens to be 505 more than the rate charged in North Naples.

Furthermore as I suspected this fictional work you report to be fact has a few errors..(or LIES)
There is no north naples station 41???

The unneeded station that you talk about is in regards to growth.... not right now?

Your attacks on Lombardo are comical and almost as funny as your toothless grins.

Lombardo is a honorable man with more dignity in his moustache than you will ever have in your entire body.

Independent_Thinker writes:

News Flash - Duane Billington lives in Golden Gate City and pays $470.53 in taxes per year of which $38.74 is payed to GGFD at 1.5 mills. According to

Duane Billington is providing false statements. According to , there is no station 41. I call fo an in depth report on this 15 minute call in question because I WANT TO KNOW being that the Pine Ridge station serves the Pelican Bay area!

Duane - I'm not paying to supplement your service! I pay $24,457 in taxes to Collier County and $2,420 to the North Naples Fire District on my one un-homesteaded property in NNFD district.

Duane, take your hand out of my pocket.

FiredUp writes:

I understand these editorials are opinions, but there is a difference between posting one's opinion, and making up figures and posting lies. I would expect nothing less from a man with an obvious agenda, Mr Billington complains about a district he hasn't paid a red cent towards. What I can not understand is how the Naples News allows this trash to be printed. A simple search of the internet proves the writer is nothing more than a liar.

If you are going to make up response times, at least get the station numbers correct. The men and women you are committing libel against are going to call you out.

Heck, perhaps you shouldn't even bring up response times. Looking up response times in this area show video proof of your lies.

alvarig1263 writes:

Thanks for including a link to my video.

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.