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Early voting on fire district referendum begins

May 29, 2019
By MELISSA BILL (news@breezenewspapers.com) , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Voters have a chance to cast an early ballot on the Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District's referendum.

Early voting began Tuesday and is available through Saturday, June 1, at the East County Regional Library at 881 Gunnery Road N.

Early voting hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day.

On the day of the special election, Tuesday, June 4, the polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The referendum, to be decided by voters within the district, is on a proposed change to the current assessment methodology.

A "yes" on the referendum would allow the fire district to annually levy non-ad valorem assessments beginning fiscal year 2020 to fund fire protection, rescue, emergency medical services, and administration not exceeding $165 per parcel (vacant lots), plus $1 per $1,000 of value of improvements using property appraiser data.

Presently, the fee for lots with buildings is $332.15, regardless of the value of the structure. Owners of the nearly 90,000 vacant lots in Lehigh currently pay $25.29 per lot.

According to Fire Chief Robert DiLallo, under the special assessment proposed, most homeowners and businesses would see a reduction on their current assessment fee.

"We have a quick search tool on our website that allows you to go in and check what their new assessment would be if approved by the voters. Eleven out of 12 homes will end up paying less for fire protection," DiLallo said.

DiLallo also pointed out that those who own vacant lots in Cape Coral pay more than the district's proposed $165 per lot, plus many must pay a fee to the city for mowing.

So far reactions have been mixed, but DiLallo has attended multiple public forums to explain the special assessment to residents and answer questions.

"Many residents changed their view point once they have had a chance to watch the department's history and simplified fire video currently on our website," DiLallo said.

The video can be found at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ae9ccgW8dI0&feature=youtu.be

According to DiLallo and the board of commissioners, the fire district's current demand-based method with a "non-ad valorem assessment," does not share the costs through the district's territory and is not enough to fund the areas growth and pay for the fire and rescue services needed to serve Lehigh Acres.

The district is also in jeopardy of losing its ambulance service and must fund the build-out of a sixth fire station on West Sunshine to keep up with the rising call volumes in that section out of Lehigh Acres. Under the simplified fire assessment, the district can stabilize revenue sources and make the assessment fairer to all property owners, officials said.

District voters who would like to vote-by-mail must request the ballots by May 29 at 5 p.m. Deadlines, locations and other information about voting-by-mail are located at: lee.electionsfl.org/Vote-by-Mail.

Additional polling sites can be determined by filling out a form on the following website: lee.electionsfl.org/Admin/Check-my-Registration-Status.

The fire district currently has a quick search tool on its website where property owners can search and find a proposed assessment value for their parcel of land. This search engine allows for searches by either (1) owner name, (2) parcel location address, or (3) tax parcel identification number. The Quick Search and other information related to the proposed assessment can be found special-election-and-fire-district-assessment-information.

The Citizen also has a referendum Q&A posted on its website at lehighacrescitizen.com .

The Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District holds its regular meetings at 5 p.m. on meeting days at Fire Station 104 at 3102 16th St. SW in Lehigh.

 
 

 

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