March 6, 2015
February 16, 2015
The LGIFR Board has recommended an assessment increase of $175 per residence and $62.50 per undeveloped lot to provide a second professional on duty 24/7. Please see the previous newsletters on the LGIFR website (lgifr.com) for a full discussion of the Board’s reasons for recommending this increase. To be adopted, the recommended assessment increase must be approved by a majority of the LGIFR members voting in a special election. The required special election will take place during the one-month period between April 15, 2015 and May 15, 2015.
Here is what you need to know:
A ballot will be sent by first-class mail on April 15 to every LGI property owner of record, at the address to which the property tax bill is sent. Included with each ballot will be a certification form, which must be filled out and returned with the ballot. A ballot not accompanied by a certification form or a ballot that does not come from a certified property owner will not be counted. The certification forms will be separated from the sealed ballots before the ballots are opened and counted. Thus, there will be no way to identify the voting member when a sealed ballot is opened and counted.
Only one ballot per assessed property parcel will be counted. If there are multiple owners of a single assessed property parcel, one owner must submit the single ballot and certification form for that property parcel. If you own more than one property parcel and pay more than one LGIFR assessment, you will receive a ballot and certification form for each assessed property parcel. The ballot and certification form for each assessed property parcel must be completed and returned to LGIFR in an envelope that contains only one ballot and certification form.
The completed ballot together with the certification form must be received by U.S. mail at PO Box 979, Placida, FL 33946 by Thursday, May 14, or delivered in person (or by a neighbor you designate) to the meeting where the ballots will be counted. That meeting will take place at 1 PM on Friday, May 15 at the firehouse, 9540 Jolly Roger Trail. To guarantee complete transparency and accountability in the vote count, the ballots will be counted by a team of 6 LGIFR members that includes 3 in favor of the increase and 3 opposed to the increase.
If you do not receive a ballot by May 4, 2015 and you believe you are entitled to one, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to request your ballot. A ballot and certification form will be sent to you via email if you are verified as a property owner. If you receive a ballot via email, you may return the ballot and your signed certification form by US mail to PO Box 979, Placida, Florida 33946 (must be received in the PO box by May 14), or you may bring the completed ballot and certification form to the May 15 meeting.
If you have any questions about the procedure for this special election, you may email your questions to email@example.com.
Below is a letter written by Dr. Dan O;Leary, Charlotte County Medical Director. LGIFR operates under his supervision for EMS.
Please take the time to read it and understand why LGIFR is asking to increase its professional staff to 2 on duty at all times.
Again, remember this is ultimately your choice. You will be receiving a letter with a ballot in mid-April.
A. Current one professional—
LGIFR’s one on-duty firefighter/paramedic will immediately respond to a fire call with LGIFR’s “pumper truck” that carries 1,000 gallons of water and the equipment to pump water onto the fire. The one professional can extinguish a relatively small brush fire with the 1,000 gallons, but after that water is exhausted there is no more water available and firefighting will cease.
The primary objective of LGIFR’s fire service is to prevent an established structure fire or a large brush fire from spreading to adjacent homes. A fire call response by one professional, bringing only the pumper truck, is not capable of accomplishing this core objective.
B. Proposed two professionals—
The proposed second professional would immediately respond with LGIFR’s second truck (“hose truck”) that is equipped to draw water from any available source such as the bay or a canal and deliver an unlimited supply of water to the pumper truck. The second professional would establish the water supply while the first professional applied the pumper’s initial 1,000 gallons to the fire. The second professional would then help operate the pumper’s larger hose (it takes 2 people to control a hose at a flow of 150 gallons per minute, needed for a structure fire), assist the first professional with heavy ladders if needed, provide a safety back-up if a rescue from a structure is required, and generally allow each professional to watch out for the safety of the other.
Florida law specifies that all deployed firefighters be trained to a minimum standard of “Firefighter One” (206 hours of training). Florida law does not currently specify how many firefighters must be deployed in response to a fire call. But published national professional standards and published national insurance standards specifically require that four trained firefighters be deployed. In the event of an unfortunate outcome on LGI, it is likely that a Florida Court would rely on the published national standards to find that the deployment of a single firefighter by LGIFR was not sufficient, even in the unique circumstances of LGI. I have not found any other fire service provider in south Florida, including on other nearby boat-accessible islands, that deploys only one professional in response to a fire call.
To: All LGIFR members
From: Tom McCoy and Pede Fraser
Subject: Cost of recommended second professional 24/7
As you know, the LGIFR Board has recommended an assessment increase to provide a second professional on duty 24/7. The necessary annual assessment increase would be $175 per residence and $62.50 per undeveloped lot. These recommended increases would result in total annual assessments of $525 per residence and $187.50 per undeveloped lot. To assist you in evaluating the Board’s recommendation, we are providing the following discussion, pro and con, of that recommended cost increase.
Any analysis of the cost of providing fire/rescue service and EMS to a small physically isolated area like LGI must begin with the recognition that the cost is unavoidably high when measured either by cost per call or by cost per taxpaying property unit. With the same fixed costs in equipment and personnel, LGIFR could deliver essentially the same level of service to a contiguous area twice as large as LGI. Because such an area would produce twice as many calls, the fixed cost per call would be half of LGIFR’s cost per call. And because the cost would be spread over twice as many taxpaying property units, the cost per taxpaying unit would be half of LGIFR’s cost per taxpaying unit.
Unfortunately, LGI cannot be physically connected to any larger service area. All such possibilities have been explored by the Board and have proved to be unworkable. The most obvious possibility was a combination with Palm Island by an emergency access road through the Don Pedro State Park. The cost of constructing an access road across the area of the closed pass between Don Pedro and LGI would be prohibitive, and would require the county’s use of eminent domain power to acquire private property at both the LGI and Palm Island ends of the road. The Board also understands that the state would not permit an emergency access road through the park. Thus, LGI’s physical isolation presents an unavoidably high cost per call and cost per taxpaying unit. This hard reality has presented hard choices for LGI property owners and the LGIFR Board from the very beginning.
Recent experience indicates that for the near-term future, LGIFR can expect to receive an average of approximately one call (either fire or medical) per week. Dividing LGIFR’s 2015 total annual budget of $238,000 by 52 calls per year results in a per call cost of $4,577 to deliver LGIFR’s current level of fire response or EMS response by one professional firefighter/paramedic. To provide the Board’s recommended response by two professionals for every call in 2016 would increase the cost per call to $6,558 based on an annual budget of $341,000. If the cost per call is computed on the basis of compensation costs alone, the current compensation cost per call of $2,661 would increase to a compensation cost per call of $4,410.
This is the first of several newsletters you will receive that are intended to bring all LGIFR members (all LGI property owners) up to date on significant recent developments at LGIFR.
For the last seven months, the LGIFR Board has been engaged in a reassessment of its needs for continuing operation in three areas:
1. What kind of building does LGIFR need to shelter its equipment and house its personnel?
2. How many professionals and volunteers does LGIFR need to adequately and safely deliver fire and EMS service on LGI?
3. What kind of equipment does LGIFR need to adequately deliver fire and EMS service on LGI?
Chief Demeter and the Board discussed these questions at a series of 3 meetings in late 2014. The Chief and the Board agreed that LGIFR’s first priority should be adequate staffing, second should be adequate equipment, and third should be a fire station. The Board and the Chief also agreed that islanders thought EMS was more critical than fire fighting. At December’s Annual Meeting, Board Chair Judy McCoy gave her Chairman’s Report, which summarized the findings of these meetings and the Chief’s recommendations.
Modified Staffing System
Addressing that top priority of adequate staffing, Chief Demeter has persuaded Charlotte County to enter a second contract with LGIFR under which the County has agreed to pay LGIFR $30,000 from the ad valorem EMS tax that the islanders already pay Charlotte County. In return, LGIFR agreed to continue to provide a fully functioning on-island EMS program to supplement the EMS traditionally supplied by the County from the mainland. This second contract with Charlotte County to support LGIFR’s supplemental EMS program (the first contract is the fire/rescue contract) is an extraordinary achievement for which Chief Demeter deserves considerable credit.
Because of the supplemental EMS money, the Board and the Chief have been able to establish a staff of three full-time professional firefighter/paramedics (including the current chief) to cover all seven of our twenty-four hour shifts each week, for the first time in LGIFR history. This system of three full-time professionals will replace our current staffing system that consists of a full-time chief with a large and constantly changing roster of part-time firefighter/paramedics moonlighting from their regular jobs at some other fire department.
The new system will provide three professionals who are familiar with the unique circumstances of the island and are familiar to the islanders. They will rotate holiday duty among themselves, and will perform routine tasks during their duty shifts. Their schedule of duty shifts will be 24 hours on and 48 hours off, identical to the scheduling system used at nearly all other fire/rescue departments in Florida, including those on North Captiva and Palm Island. Using the scheduling system in use at other fire/rescue departments will give LGIFR credibility in its application for grants to cover salaries and in its efforts to hire qualified firefighter/paramedics.
Building and Equipment
The Board and Chief Demeter also decided to defer indefinitely the allocation of any annual budget money for the construction of a firehouse or for the acquisition of fire equipment more ideally suited to our island environment. The construction of a firehouse to shelter our equipment, and slow its deterioration in the harsh island environment, remains a long-term priority for the Board. But the Board has determined that bringing our fire/rescue and EMS staffing up to standard is a higher and more immediate priority. Similarly, the replacement of our fire equipment with equipment more ideally suited to the island remains a long-term priority. But the Board has determined that adequate staffing of fire/rescue and EMS is a higher priority, and our current fire equipment is serviceable for the near-term future.
The Board has conducted a careful evaluation of both fire/rescue program staffing and EMS program staffing. That evaluation revealed that LGIFR’s basic staffing system of one professional firefighter/paramedic on duty 24/7, supplemented by any trained volunteers who are available on island at the time of a call, does not meet the commonly accepted professional standards for an EMS program. The Board has found that current commonly accepted professional standards for an EMS program with Advanced Life Support capabilities require a response by no less than two professionals.
The Board also has found that LGIFR’s basic staffing system of one professional firefighter/paramedic on duty 24/7 does not meet the requirements of a minimally effective fire/rescue program, especially as LGIFR’s firefighting plan requires a response using two pieces of equipment (the pumper truck and the hose truck) to fight a fire on LGI. Although LGIFR does have a small group of volunteers who are firefighters-in-training, and who can serve as the second responder, many of them and sometimes all of them are off island or not available to respond at the time of a call.
As a result of this evaluation of the fire/rescue and EMS staffing, the Board has decided to ask the island property owners to authorize, by vote in a special election, an approximately 50% increase in the annual assessment in order to add a second professional firefighter/EMT to each of the seven 24-hour shifts per week currently covered by a single professional firefighter/paramedic.
More information can be found on LGIFR’s website: www.lgifr.com. Click on the tabs for “Chief’s Report” and “Newsletter” to get the latest accurate information.
I know this is long, but please take the time to read it. It compares what LGIFR can do now with one professional on duty at all times to what LGIFR can do with two professionals on duty at all times. Questions and comments are welcome. Thanks.
To: All LGIFR members
From: Chief Steven Demeter
Subject: Proposed staffing change from one professional to two professionals
Date: March 3, 2015
As you know, the LGIFR Board has recommended an assessment increase to provide a second professional on duty 24/7. To assist you in evaluating that recommendation, the Board has asked me to compare what LGIFR can accomplish with our current one on-duty professional against what LGIFR could accomplish with the proposed two on-duty professionals.
To evaluate LGIFR’s need for a second on-duty professional 24/7, one must first understand the extremely limited role the county plays in providing fire service and EMS on LGI. For approximately 40 minutes after a 911 call is received, there is no county help available on LGI. Since the first minutes are the most critical in a response to a serious fire or a serious medical emergency, Charlotte County’s contribution is minimal at best, and sometimes less than that.
Even after 40 minutes, if the county personnel do arrive in response to a fire call, they have no fire equipment and no transport to the fire scene other than that provided by LGIFR. The county fireboat can reach only those few locations where deep water is adjacent to the bayshore.
When county personnel arrive after 40 minutes in response to an EMS call, they have no on-island transport to the location of the patient and no means of transporting the patient back to the fireboat at the dock or to the helicopter at the landing zone, other than that provided by LGIFR.
In other words, to evaluate the need for a second LGIFR professional on duty 24/7, one must begin with the recognition that for all practical purposes, LGIFR is the only dependable and effective fire/rescue and emergency medical service available on LGI.
The following is a comparison of what one LGIFR professional can accomplish compared to what two professionals could accomplish in response to a fire call or an EMS call. Newsletter #3
The following is a comment from Chief Demeter regarding volunteers and volunteer training.
The requirements to be a volunteer firefighter in the state of Florida is 18 years of age, complete 206 hours of training and pass a state certification test. This law came into effect in 2010. Since then we have seen a decrease in the amount of volunteer’s state wide. The national trend has also seen a decrease in the amount of volunteers. People just do not have the time to commit to the training requirements and are not willing to serve their communities as they did in years past.
Being on an island only reduces the potential pool of volunteers. I have been here for over a year now as Chief. When I arrived there were no trained certified volunteer firefighters in the department. The firefighter 1 course was well advertised on the island, Facebook, LGI fire web page. I personally posted announcements on all LGI bulletin boards. We had 4 people commit to the training. The course started last September; they are still in the process of completing the training requirements. We have made the course very user friendly, scheduling classes convenient to the participants. I know of no other firefighter 1 courses that operate with such a flexible schedule. Even once the 4 complete the FF1 course they will still not be trained at the EMT level. This is an additional 200 hours that has to be completed off the island.
With volunteers there is no guarantee that they will be on the island. This is not unique to LGI, across the country the lack of available volunteers to respond to calls has resulted in the need to hire more paid personnel. I counted 4 days last week that the only trained professional available to respond to calls was the one on duty firefighter paramedic. This department has been in existence since 2009. The law required a 160 hours training for firefighter 1 since 2001. Again when I arrived and looking over the past years rosters there have never been any island residents who were trained and certified as a firefighter 1.
We operate at the advanced life support level (Paramedic) for medical calls. We do very advanced procedures such as RSI, surgical procedures such as crics and needle chest decompression. I know of no other ALS fire department in the State of Florida that only operates with 1 Paramedic and no EMT to assist.
Ultimately the community will need to decide what level of service they are willing to pay for. The cost of a second on duty FF/EMT amounts to .44 cents a day for a house on LGI. The bottom line is one on duty Firefighter/ Paramedic is not going to be able to handle a structure fire, large wild land fire or deal with a critical patient.
The team I have put together of full time firefighter paramedics have well over 100 years of experience and all but one holds a graduate level degrees in fire and EMS services. We have all worked as fire chiefs or at the chief officer level for larger departments. The wealth of education and experience you have with LGI fire is second to none for a small department in Florida.
So, I would caution you on who you listen to and allow you to influence your decision in this critical vote.
Stephen Demeter, MS, CFO
April 17, 2010
Argument that the cost is too high
By majority vote in 2009, LGI’s property owners concluded that the increase in service level from zero (the level provided by the county in the first 40 minutes after a 911 call) to an immediate response by LGIFR’s one professional firefighter/paramedic is worth the large initial cost per call. But it can be argued that the increase in service level from one professional responder to two professional responders simply is not worth the additional cost in a situation like LGI. On LGI, the substantial additional cost will be spread over relatively few calls and relatively few taxpaying units. In other words, while the desirability of a second professional is undeniable, it can be argued that it is simply too expensive in the context of LGI (compared to the usual much larger service area where the additional cost can be spread much more broadly).
In addition, a significant number of LGI homeowners occupy their LGI homes for relatively short periods of time each year. This, the likelihood that they would need an EMS response by LGIFR during their time on LGI is significantly reduced. These homeowners can argue that the cost to them for providing LGIFR’s rescue and EMS protection is much greater for each of their on-island days, than the cost per on-island day incurred by homeowners who are present on the island for longer periods or are full-time residents.
From another perspective, one can argue that the property owners on LGI are less wealthy as a group, and thus less able to absorb the additional cost recommended by the Board, than are the property owners on Palm Island or North Captiva. (On both islands, the property owners have accepted even higher costs for the service of two professionals on duty 24/7.) It is common sense that a decision to purchase or not purchase a desirable service will be dictated not just by the desirability of the service, but by the relative ability of the purchaser to pay the cost of the service. From this perspective, a number of property owners on LGI would choose to forego the admitted benefits of a second professional responder on the grounds that these LGI property owners have limited means with which to pay the additional cost. It can be argued that many of these same property owners already are feeling squeezed by a mandatory water connection requirement and the significant increase in water rates.
February 25, 2015
Ballots have now been mailed to all LGI property owners, asking them to vote yes or no on LGIFR’s proposed assessment increase. Ballots will be counted at the next LGIFR Board meeting on Friday, May 15, starting at 1PM.
You may have received a postcard from those opposed to the increase. Do not be confused by the email address provided on the postcard. If you have not received your ballot by May 4, email firstname.lastname@example.org and a ballot with a certification form will be emailed to you by LGIFR. Only a ballot provided by LGIFR via US mail or via email can be counted.
Please re-read Newsletters #3 and #4, which explain why LGIFR is asking for this increase. Then make your informed choice about the level of firefighting and emergency medical service LGI should receive.
To: All LGIFR Members
From: Judy McCoy, Chair, LGIFR Board
Re: Publication of false allegations of “misappropriation of funds”
Date: March 19, 2015
By now, many LGI property owners have seen, or at least heard about, the letter of resignation written by John Baskett who had been serving as LGIFR’s volunteer bookkeeper. In his resignation letter to the Board, John makes the statement that LGIFR “funds . . . have been misappropriated.” As best I can determine, John’s statement was intended to express his strong disagreement with two staffing and budgetary decisions made by the Board at a public Board meeting after much public discussion spanning several previous Board meetings and one Board workshop. The letter now has been posted on two Facebook sites and has been hung on numerous trees on the island. In each case, those who posted the letter have falsely stated that author of the letter served as LGIFR’s “Accountant.”
No matter what subjective meaning John may have had in mind when he wrote the statement, the dictionary definition and commonly understood meaning of the word “misappropriate” is “to apply wrongfully or dishonestly, as funds entrusted to one’s care.” This clearly is the meaning those who posted the letter hope the property owners of LGI will take from the letter. To enhance the damaging effect of the statement in the letters posted on the trees, John’s statement and the false explanation that the author was “LGIFR’s Accountant” are highlighted in yellow.
As commonly understood, the accusation that LGIFR funds have been “misappropriated” is a flatly false statement. And that false statement was made by an individual who, more than anyone else, was in a position to know the actual facts and whose false statement therefore would be given the highest credibility. During his tenure as bookkeeper and to date, John has not brought to the Board a single instance of “misappropriation of funds” by anyone in any way affiliated with LGIFR.
In a private letter of resignation transmitted only to the Board, such a false statement could be excused as a mischaracterization or an exaggeration by an individual upset by the Board’s public budgeting decisions. But when that statement is published, as it now has been by posting on Facebook and on island trees, the common meaning constitutes personal libel of the members of the LGIFR Board. Both the writer and the publishers (all who posted the statement on Facebook or trees) are legally responsible for that libel.
More importantly, publication of such a false statement corrupts and misleads the public discussion about an important policy question--the most effective way to invest LGI taxpayers’ money to maximize EMS and fire/rescue service on LGI. The publication of such a statement is a disservice to every LGI property owner who is seeking to make an informed and rational decision about EMS and fire/rescue service on LGI and about the costs of those services. And the publication of such a statement unjustly defames those LGI property owners who are volunteering their time and effort on the LGIFR Board to conscientiously advance the best interests of their LGI neighbors.
In view of the substantial harm being done by the repeated republication of John’s ill-considered statement, a formal retraction (or a careful clarification of his intended meaning) from John would be in order. In the event that no such retraction or clarification is forthcoming, I want to assure you that every dollar of LGIFR funds, from both tax sources and other sources, is completely accounted for in LGIFR’s published budgets and financial reports (on the LGIFR website). For the last year, those reports were authored by John Baskett himself. Every year since LGIFR’s inception, those reports have been reviewed by an independent accountant and have been presented to the County for review.
Type your paragraph here.
A. Current one professional—
LGIFR’s one on-duty firefighter/paramedic will immediately respond with LGIFR’s all-wheel drive EMS vehicle and with medical equipment and drugs that are equivalent to those brought to an EMS call on the mainland. The one professional will immediately begin assessment and treatment of the patient.
The one professional is not able to divert his/her attention from the patient to accomplish several other tasks that must be performed simultaneously with patient treatment. After the patient is stabilized, the one professional is not able to carry the patient to the EMS vehicle for transport either to the dock to meet the county fireboat or to the landing zone to meet the helicopter. Nor can the one professional leave the patient to meet the county personnel at the dock and transport them to the patient to provide additional manpower to carry the patient.
B. Proposed two professionals—
While the first professional focuses exclusively on the patient, the proposed second professional will be available to return to the EMS vehicle for additional equipment and drugs, and to supply the treating professional with whatever drugs and equipment are needed. As the treating professional is focused exclusively on the patient, the second professional can be on the radio directing the county personnel to the correct dock or ordering helicopter transport and arranging for the lighting and securing of the landing zone. During the time when both professionals are engaged in patient treatment, the safety of both the patient and the two professionals is enhanced by the attention of two professionals.
The second professional will be available to provide essential assistance with the physical movement of the patient to the EMS vehicle. If transport of the arriving county personnel to the patient is necessary, the second professional can provide that transport in the EMS vehicle while patient treatment by the first professional continues. If no trained volunteers are available to light and secure the helicopter-landing zone, the second professional can perform those tasks while patient treatment continues.
Again, Florida law does not specify how many professionals must be deployed in response to an EMS call. But published national professional standards specify that a minimum of one paramedic and one EMT respond within eight minutes. In the event of an unfortunate outcome on LGI, it is likely that a Florida court would rely on those published national standards to find that LGIFR’s deployment of a single firefighter/paramedic was not sufficient, even in the unique circumstances of LGI. I have not found any other EMS provider in south Florida, including on other nearby boat-accessible islands, that deploys only one professional in response to an EMS call.
A Word on Volunteers:
LGIFR has a group of four volunteers completing their training to a Firefighter One classification. When they are on the island and available to respond, they can provide invaluable assistance to supplement either the current one or the proposed two LGIFR professionals. But they cannot be considered a substitute for the proposed second on-duty professional for the simple reason that there are times when no volunteer is available to respond, either because the volunteers are not present on the island or because of personal reasons even if they happen to be on the island. All four of these volunteers have homes elsewhere and activities that take them away from the island, as do most island property owners.
The proposed increase in the assessment to provide a second professional on duty 24/7 has been rejected by a majority of the LGI property owners who voted in the recent LGIFR election. The vote count was 366 against the proposed increase and 133 in favor of the increase. As a result of this determination by the LGI property owners, LGIFR will continue to operate with the current one professional on duty 24/7 unless a grant or some other funding source is found to cover the cost of a second on-duty professional.
As a separate matter, at the May 15 meeting the Board noted that the 2015 budget barely covers anticipated operating costs. The 2015 budget projects an allocation of only $735 to the equipment replacement fund that is LGIFR’s only capital reserve. The Board concluded that it would be fiscally irresponsible to continue operations with virtually no allocation to capital reserves for any purpose, including the inevitable need for equipment replacement. Therefore, the Board voted unanimously to ask Charlotte County to approve a 5% increase in the annual assessment of LGI property owners for LGIFR for 2016. If approved by the County Commissioners, the requested increase will amount to $17.50 per dwelling and $6.50 per vacant lot, and will fund a $10,000 allocation to the equipment replacement fund in the 2016 budget.
Draft minutes of the May 15 meeting are on LGIFR’s website: lgifr.com.
Judy McCoy, Chairman, email@example.com
Fred Baruth, firstname.lastname@example.org
Diana Obermeyer, Secretary, email@example.com
Conrad Coolidge, Treasurer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Phyllis NeSmith, Director, email@example.com
Hello LGIFR members.
I wanted you to get accurate information about the Board's recent decisions. Please read and let me know if you have any questions.
For 2015, LGIFR will have one firefighter/paramedic on duty at all times, using LGIFR’s existing assessment (which has not increased since LGIFR was formed). In addition to his administrative duties, the Chief will be working 2 or 3 (24 hour) shifts per week – a reduction from his current 4 or 5 shifts per week - but LGIFR will no longer pay for his housing. Thus his pay, as well as his hours, have been reduced. The shifts not covered by the Chief will be covered by full-time employees.
For 2016, the Board and the Chief recommend to the islanders that 2 professionals should be on duty at all times (one a firefighter/paramedic, the other a firefighter/EMT). LGIFR needs two professionals on duty at all times to respond to either a fire call or a medical emergency call. LGIFR needs two vehicles (thus 2 operators) to fight a fire on LGI. Commonly accepted professional standards require a minimum of two professionals to handle a serious medical emergency. This two-person staffing cannot be done without an approximately 50% increase in the assessment each property pays. Such an increase must be voted on by island property owners before it can be enacted. All island property owners will be receiving, by first class mail, a letter with a ballot to say yes or no to this proposed increase. This decision will be made by a majority of the islanders who return their ballots, not by the Board or the Chief.
For a list of advantages and disadvantages of the proposed two-person staffing system, please go to lgifr.com. Click on “Chief’s Page” and “Newsletter”. While on the website, you can also see budgets and financial reports. Future Newsletters will detail the reasons for and against the recommended assessment increase.
Some of you may have seen a posting of a letter I wrote to Charlotte County on behalf of LGIFR. This was done because the county requires notification of a maximum assessment increase before the end of January in any given year. The 90% figure represents a “fully-funded” version of LGIFR, with 2 professionals on duty at all times, the building of a fire station, and the purchase of proper firefighting equipment. You will notice that in that letter I point out that the request can be modified or withdrawn before June. The requested increase will be modified or withdrawn based on the outcome of the vote by island property owners.
Instead of the maximum 90%, the Board voted at its February 13 meeting to recommend to the island a 50% increase to pay for 2 professionals on duty at all times. The Board chose NOT to ask for funding for a building or proper firefighting equipment. Thus, the maximum possible increase will be 50%, and only if approved by vote of the island property owners.
Thank you for reading this. A lot of misinformation is out there. Your input is welcome.
Judy McCoy, Chairman, firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Demeter, FF/EMT-P
Little Gasparilla Island Fire Rescue
Thank you for inviting me to attend the upcoming meeting of the Fire Board on April 11, 2015. Unfortunately, I will be accompanying my sons to a regatta in Sarasota that weekend. Nonetheless, I am a huge proponent of the 2-person model for minimal Fire/EMS staffing.
As you know, Charlotte County Fire/EMS has upgraded Palm Island’s Station 10 to a 24/7/365 ALS 2-person engine. After careful consideration, it was agreed that this would be the minimal safe staffing to perform initial firefighting and Advanced Life Support medical procedures. Because both of these specialties require intense hands-on activity to sustain life and protect property, a 2-person crew is the least it would require to perform these duties until reinforcements could arrive on the barge from Placida.
Likewise, I am currently in the process of upgrading Boca Grande Fire Department’s capabilities to include an ALS engine. Currently, there is an ALS ambulance operated by Lee County EMS collocated at the BGFD headquarters. This is a satisfactory arrangement unless the ambulance needs to transport someone to the hospital. Whether the transport is undertaken to Venice Regional Medical Center or to Englewood Community Hospital, the total trip time takes keeps the ambulance off Boca Grange for approximately 3 hours each time. When a simultaneous medical emergency occurs, there is a significant delay until arrival of the next-due ALS unit.
I see many similarities between the needs of Palm Island, Gasparilla Island and Little Gasparilla Island. All three are indeed separated from the mainland and therefore have prolonged hospital transport times and delayed arrival of backup units. The islands all have their share of flammable wood-frame houses that require immediate extinguishment to prevent total loss of the primary home as well as exposures. Finally, each of the islands is home to frail, medically-needy residents.
From a practical point of view, no basic firefighting duties can be accomplished with a solitary initial responder. One firefighter cannot drag a charged hose line singlehandedly up narrow staircases to the seat of the fire nor could that rescuer drag an overweight unconscious victim to safety alone. Even if a Herculean firefighter were able to carry the attack line alone, there would be no pump operator to provide reliable flow rates given LGI’s low water pressures. And you well know that the National Fire Protection Association requires a minimum standard of 2 firefighters on the entry crew.
Just as a single responder would be understaffed for almost all fire emergencies, likewise there is danger in dispatching a solo provider to a medical call as well. Unless the medical call was for a splinter or similar booboo, a solitary paramedic would be unable to administer standard Advanced Life Support (ALS) procedures by himself. The American Heart Association recommends rotating CPR compressors every 2 minutes. So, a minimum of 2 people would be required to temporarily provide effective chest compressions. Once effective perfusion were obtained, other tasks such as intravenous lines and advanced airways could be placed.
Given Dr. R Adams Cowley’s theory of “the Golden Hour” of trauma survival, rapid stabilization by a minimum of two rescuers is needed to control hemorrhages, place advanced airways, and administer IV fluid resuscitation. Once these initial steps can be accomplished, one rescuer would attend the trauma victim while the other established the Landing Zone (LZ) for the medevac helicopter. As we all know, Trauma Alert patients must be flown off of LGI to the trauma center if they stand a chance of surviving.
It is only natural for taxpayers to question the value of increased assessments—I know I certainly do. This vital investment is needed to assure the same level of service that everyone else already enjoys outside of LGI. It is my professional opinion as an emergency medicine specialist physician and firefighter that Little Gasparilla Fire Rescue should have a minimum staffing of 2 full-time personnel in order that the island’s residents and visitors receive rapid and professional lifesaving fire/rescue services.
Dan O’Leary, MD, FACEP, FAAP
Little Gasparilla Island Fire/Rescue
March 6, 2015
Argument that the cost is not too high for the benefits gained
Because of its unique structure, controlled by the LGI property owners, LGIFR is able to deliver its services at a cost far below what those same services would have cost from some other provider under the circumstances of LGI. For the staffing level of two-professionals 24/7 being proposed by the Board, the total annual budget for LGIFR’s fire/rescue service and EMS would increase to $341,000 for 2016. For exactly that same level of service by two-professionals 24/7, the Palm Island property owners through their MSBU are paying Charlotte County a total 2015 budget of $450,000. As has been the case from the beginning, LGIFR would be providing the proposed service by two professionals in the most cost-efficient manner possible.
Even with LGIFR’s cost-efficient operation, the cost of a fire call response or an EMS call response is very high considered in isolation. But it can be argued that LGIFR (and any other fire/EMS service) spreads that cost over all the taxpaying property units in the service area, just as an insurance company spreads the high cost of an individual insurance claim over all of its policyholders. Just as with an insurance policy, the members of LGIFR pay a relatively small annual “premium” (the annual assessment) to insure themselves against a catastrophic loss whose cost would otherwise fall only on those very few who actually experienced the relatively rare catastrophic event.
At present, LGIFR members pay an assessment of approximately $1 per day to “insure” themselves and all of their LGI neighbors against the potentially catastrophic loss of life or property that could result from a complete lack of prompt EMS and fire protection on LGI. An earlier Newsletter from Chief Demeter outlined the substantial increase in “insurance” (i.e., LGIFR’s level of EMS and fire service) that would result from the addition of a second professional 24/7. This substantial increase in protection recommended by the Board would cost each LGI home approximately 50 cents more per day, resulting in a total assessment cost per day of $1.50. Viewed from this perspective, it can be argued that the annual assessment increase recommended by the Board is a wise and affordable investment.