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Fire Board

08/21/2013 at 5:54pm

9/11 WreckageFire Board Approves 9-11 Project

The August meeting of the Fire Commissioners of the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District brought approval of a request to proceed with a 9-11 memorial project, along with decisions to delay purchase of replacement vehicles and unpaid ambulance fee write-offs.

Two years ago Lieutenant Randy Kraus obtained two pieces of steel from the 9-11 wreckage of the Twin Towers in New York City. Kraus, a former NYC paramedic, applied for a piece of the steel framework after learning it was available to fire and police departments.

The original thought was to offer the steel as the base of a flagpole in Crescent Beach Family Park. Chief White explains, "Originally we got it from New York, but the county didn’t want it and the Town didn’t want it in a public space.”

The plan then shifted to a flagpole for Station 33. But those plans faded and the steel has been in storage for the past two years. Chief White told the board that Assistant Chief Tom May and Brian Sullivan with Boulton Construction have resurrected the idea. White brought the proposal to the board Tuesday night and they agreed to allow Sullivan to proceed with the memorial project, though the approval came with a long list of conditions.

The final project design must be board-approved. The contractor is responsible for all fundraising and permits. Project costs, estimated at $10,000, must be raised before the project can begin. Once work begins, it must be completed within 6 months.

Commissioner Betty Goodacre voiced her approval of the project.

"This is long overdue. I don’t think there is going to be any problem raising the money here on the island. I am really glad it’s going forward.”

Goodacre pointed out that holding a groundbreaking ceremony or some sort of kick-off on September 11th was a perfect way to begin fundraising. The board approved the project 5-0.

During the Chief’s report, Chief White recognized Captain Mike Brown for 12 years of FMB District service and Captain Randy Kraus for 9 years of service. He informed the board that collective bargaining negotiations continue with District 3 and 15. He brought requests to the board regarding surplus capital assets and purchasing staff vehicles.

White explained that the 61 items on the surplus list included portable radios and monitors that were replaced. The radios, monitors and other items will be used as trade-ins, sold, donated or scrapped depending on condition.

The purchase of staff vehicles was delayed once again by the board. White asked the board several months ago for approval to purchase two Chevy Tahoe vehicles for staff use. The district staff fleet includes two Ford Fusions that staff has found to be too small to carry necessary equipment. The last date to order the 2013 special purpose Tahoe at the 2012 price is August 22, according to White. The special purpose vehicles will not be available after that until a new model is released. There won’t be a 2014 special purpose Tahoe model, White said.

Scanlon suggested a plan, "Get rid of the two Fusions, move up the other vehicles and use one of the pick-ups. Buy one Tahoe and assign the vehicles as the Chief sees fit.”

"I want to wait until next year,” Commissioner Carol Morris added, with Commissioner Ted Schindler agreeing.

Board Chair David Brower opted to consider a delay. "I’d like to wait until we pass the budget, then see what it looks like a couple of months in.”

Morris moved to defer a decision until December, when the board could take a look at the budget. The motion passed 5-0.

Board Attorney Richard Pringle discussed his recent meeting to discuss uncollected claims with Intermedix, the firm that held the district ambulance billing contract from January 2007-May 2012.

The total amount of uncollected claims through May 31, 2012 is over $354,000. Of that, approximately $40,000 is Medicare, $21,000 Medicaid, $78,000 commercial insurance and $215,000 self-pay accounts (no insurance). Intermedix will be submitting a report to the district later this month with recommendations on what action to take.

Schindler questioned why Medicare claims had not been paid.

"When someone has a legitimate Medicare claim, why isn’t that paid. Just print some more money and pay it. Does that mean the billing company didn’t do the paperwork right?”

Finance Director Jane Thompson explained that some Medicare claims were billed as a secondary rather than primary insurance. She indicated that the company had fixed most of those claims but any claim over a year old cannot be re-billed.

Pringle also informed the board that the Becker lawsuit against the district had a hearing in July. As a result, Becker will file a third amended complaint and has requested a time extension to do that.

Former Fire Chief Michael Becker resigned from the district on March 12, 2012. After an unsuccessful attempt to rescind his resignation, Becker filed a lawsuit naming the district and others on August 21, 2012 claiming that he was forced to resign under duress. (Island Sand Paper Issue 606, Sept 21, 2012)

The next Fire Commissioner Board Meeting will be September 17 at 7pm at Town Hall. The monthly workshop will be held on September 10 at 10am at Station 31.

Missy Layfield