Immokalee Fire loses $130k contract with Seminole Tribe

In an effort to provide an increased level of service, the Seminole Tribe has decided not to renew the contract that is currently in place between the Tribe and the Immokalee Fire Control District effective December 2, 2016. This means that the Immokalee Fire Control District will see an annual loss in revenue of approximately $130,000.

According to Gary Bitner, Spokesperson for the Seminole Tribe, when the current contract ends, Seminole Fire Rescue will begin providing service to the Seminole Casino and surrounding reservation property.

Bitner went on to say that “this move has been in the works for years, and follows the establishment of Seminole Fire Rescue Services on the Big Cypress and Brighton Seminole Reservations in 2002 and 2005 and on the Hollywood Seminole Reservation in 2007.” While there is no direct correlation that Bitner is aware of, he did indicate that they were approached by Chief Anderson with the Immokalee Fire Control District and a rate increase was requested going forward from FY 2017.

Once the contract ends, Seminole Fire Rescue units will operate out of the old Seminole Police Department trailer located on South 1st Street just south of the Seminole Casino. Bitner said that there will be two rescue vehicles and one fire engine located at the station which will be accompanied by a Shift Commander and six state-certified firefighter paramedics.

Fire Commissioners with the Immokalee Fire Control District recently approved their FY 2017 budget which appears to include the anticipated revenue. Losing approximately $130,000 translates to a loss of 2.4% of the total revenue the District expects to have available this fiscal year. While it may not seem like a significant difference, the District expects to receive just over $1.4 million in federal grant money this year. This means that roughly 26% of the District’s operating revenue is derived from federal grant funding. If that grant money did not exist today, the loss of the Seminole contract would actually equate to a 3.26% decrease in available revenue.

In a story printed in the Immokalee Bulletin in February of this year, it was stated that Chief Anderson wrote and won two SAFER grants and put on several firefighters. However, the grants will run out in November of 2018. At that point, the District will have to absorb their salaries.

Chief Anderson indicated that although he just learned on the Tribe’s decision last week, “the loss of the Seminole Tribe Contract will have no immediate adverse impact on public safety for the residents and business owners of the Immokalee Fire Control District.” The Chief also indicated that the Board of Fire Commissioners has the option to reallocate funds that were approved in this year’s budget for replacing Station 31 on Carson Rd. Additionally, the Chief feels that with Immokalee being designated as a Promise Zone, additional federal funding may be available to help move the Station 31 project along if the capital improvement funds have to be reallocated for salaries.

The Chief also stated that with Immokalee Fire units no longer needing to respond to the Casino and reservation area every day, those units will now be available to respond to calls for service in other parts of the district.

For now, it’s expected that Fire Commissioners will discuss the issue at their November 17th public meeting at 6:00 p.m. at Station 30 on New Market Rd.

Travis can be reached at ibnews@newszap.com

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