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Pay increases for fire board to be debated

March 8, 2017
By JUSTIN MARTIN ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

The board of commissioners for the Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District will discuss raising its personal monthly stipends at its next meeting.

At the board's Feb. 28 meeting, Commissioner Robert Anderson placed an item on the agenda to discuss increasing the monthly stipend for the board members from the current $250 to the statutory maximum limit of $500, while also offering the commissioners medical and dental insurance.

He was quickly informed by board's attorney, Richard Pringle, that any discussion of raising the pay for the commissioners must, by law, be publicly noticed at least 14 days before the meeting.

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The fire board commissioners and staff at the meeting.

"If you want to take up the question of changing the salary pay to the commissioners, you're step tonight will be to notice that item," he said. "But you are prohibited, by law, from taking that up this evening without it first being put into the paper."

Commissioners Linda Carter and Debra Cunningham said they felt that any discussion about pay increases would be more appropriate during the budgeting process later this year when the fire district would have a better understand of its financial situation.

The motion to publish a public notice that the board would discuss the stipend increase at its next meeting was put forward and passed in a 3-2 vote, with Carter and Cunningham dissenting.

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Another financial issue the board addressed last week was its spending on legal counsel.

Commissioner Cathy Kruse expressed concern that a lack of communication between the board members is leading to unnecessary legal fees. She claimed that commissioners were repeatedly calling the board's attorneys for legal opinions that had already been provided to another commissioner.

Just how much the board is spending on attorney's fees was not specified.

"The problem is here, it starts here," Kruse said. "The whole point of this is to have a conversation about how we can come together as a board and handle this in a different way."

She suggested that any legal questions be filtered through Lehigh Acres Fire Chief Robert DiLallo before they are forwarded to the attorneys, so that any unnecessary overlaps can be avoided.

The motion passed 5-0.

The board of commissioners also debated whether to wave the $100 fee that would normally be assessed to the Lehigh Spring Festival committee for a fire inspection and other services.

Anderson pushed back against the idea of waiving the fee, but he eventually agreed to the proposal with the caveat that the committee would be notified that the fee may not be waived in the future.

The motion passed 4-1, with Commissioner Matt Smith dissenting.

The Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District will hold its next meeting on March 28 at 5 p.m. at Station 104, at 3102 16th St. S.W. They are open to the public.



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