An important meeting about the fire department

Village of Pinecrest Fire DeptPlease join me on March 23 at 7:00 p.m. at Evelyn Greer Park to discuss a few hot topics in the village. A most important issue that will be presented is the question that several of the council members have pursued for the past year, over my vigorous objection, of whether the Village of Pinecrest should leave the Miami Dade County Fire Rescue department and build our own department. They want to pursue this investigation despite the fact that there is a 99 percent satisfaction level with the county fire service in our village, the council voted to fund a study for $25,000 ( I opposed), which turned out to be highly questionable in its accuracy, and based on limited factual basis.

It is beyond me why they want to even discuss it, as the level of service we enjoy from the county is higher and far more extensive than anything we could ever try to create. It would cost the Village $16 million to build a department from scratch, including the land, one station, equipment , and then $6-7 million a year to operate. Double the start up costs if two stations, one on either side of the village were to be built. It would cause a firestorm of controversy as to where to even locate a station within the village, take those properties off our tax rolls to have the village purchase and build, and including the capital investment in a building, equipment and dozens of firefighters and medics, their salaries, benefits and pensions, workers comp, and so on and so on.

And to make matters even worse, the memo presented to the Council at last months meeting suggested the best place to build a fire station would be smack in the middle of the village, in the area of SW 112 Street and 67th Avenue. Sounds crazy right? But they are dead serious about this. And the memo further advised the Council that the Village tax rate would have to double, from a 2.3 Millage rate to 4.542 mils, to pay for all that craziness. I calculated what the difference on my tax bill would be if we left the County fire district, but doubled our taxes and I would pay more than I pay now, so it is certainly not a tax savings. And it would be a huge loss in quality coverage.

At that meeting, the Miami Dade County Fire Chief Chief Downey, other fire fighters who live in Pinecrest, provided the Council with significant information about the new Fire Station that will be built later this year on the eastern side of Palmetto Bay at 144 Street and Old Cutler, and about all the other resources we enjoy from the County. So at the end of a very thorough analysis and more than almost two years of discussion at council meetings, I motioned that the Council should agree not to further pursue any efforts to leave the County Fire district to build our own Department, but unfortunately, not a single one of my council members voted to support my motion.

Clearly it would take a referendum on the ballot in November allowing all Pinecrest residents to vote on the matter for any such significant action to be made, as it would double the Millage rate that Pinecrest currently imposes on our properties. But why go to that trouble? The Council certainly has enough factual information to put the issue to bed. Evidently they need to hear from you, the residents and commercial property owners on how you feel about this issue. And there are Pinecrest elections coming up in November, for a new Mayor, a new Council seat (both Bob Ross and I are termed out) and for re-election of Councilman Jim McDonald. The other two seats (Kraft and Ball) will be up for re-election in 2018. So come to the March 23 Conversation at Greer Park at 7:00 p.m. which I will host, and we will present you with all the facts and answer questions.

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