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 (www.nfpa.org) 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.