MOORE HAVEN — With one commissioner opposed, the Glades County Board authorized on Monday, Aug. 31, spending $23,500 on an update to the fire tax assessment study done in 2014.
This has been a frequent item of discussion for the commissioners over the past several years as the need for more complete fire-rescue services county-wide in Glades has become plain — not to mention a source of public discomfort that citizens have regularly expressed at county commissioners’ meetings.
The lack of full fire-rescue protection, too, has been cited as one reason this large rural county has had difficulty attracting new businesses. It affects insurance ratings and, thus, business insurance premiums.
According to the staff report, the study will be done by Tallahassee-based contractor Government Services Group Inc. (GSG). The report included a letter from Sandi Walker, assistant director of the company’s Government Services Division, in which she describes the services to be performed and presented a Fire Assessment FY 2021-22 Implementation Plan based on the previous study, along with time lines.
“GSG will honor the fees provided in March 2020. GSG’s fees to conduct another fire assessment fee study for Glades County would be as follows:
“• Phase 1– Analysis and Report — $16,500, with 2 on-site meetings;
Walker broke out a timeline that mentioned all the deadlines that must be met, noting that procedural tasks could be completed prior to the study on rates, and said GSG would be able to get started immediately on the updated study. Timely completion will depend on cooperation from Public Safety Department and Fire Rescue staff.
County Manager Bob Jones recommended the board act this year to have the study conducted so that a fire assessment could become a financing source as soon as fiscal 2022.
“I suggest we need to sit down and make the decision on what level service we want — three stations, two stations, one station, what we need to fund,” he said.
The county commissioners discussed the matter for nearly an hour. Halfway through, Commissioner Donna Storter Long made a motion to approve spending the money for an update of the study. Commissioner Donald Strenth seconded, but there was another 20-30 minutes of hashing out all the issues involved.
Pryor dislikes MSTUs
It even enticed two new county commissioners-elect in the audience to participate and ask questions. Vice Chairman Weston Pryor said he didn’t want to take questions from the crowd during their talks. As the back-and-forth waned, he urged fellow commissioners to join in support of Long’s motion, even though all of them knew he opposed instituting any kind of Municipal Services Taxing Unit (MSTU).
There have been talks between Glades and Hendry county commissioners regarding cooperation on a new fire station that would go in western Glades near the county line, and all of the commissioners agreed they wanted to pursue that possibility, Commissioner John Ahern most strongly.
But after yet more discussion, Pryor finally said that it was their job to get updated information for Glades residents’ options regardless of whether the two counties could come to agreement on a joint operations plan. “We do studies … let’s pull the trigger.”
On the voice vote, the board was in favor of the study 4-1, with Commissioner Ahern voting no.
The study commences immediately and ongoing reports are expected within a few months, as well as GSG getting the ball rolling toward meeting state and federal deadlines for filings and applications for grants Glades County is eligible for.
New faces join in November
The Glades County Board will welcome two new commissioners to the dais following the general election Nov. 3: Tony Whidden, replacing Vice Chairman Weston Pryor (who declined to run again) in the District 1 seat; and Jerry “Gator” Sapp, who defeated the District 3 incumbent in the August primary, taking Commissioner Donald Strenth’s seat.
Stanley said he thought the meeting when they take office would be Nov. 17. Normally in November, the commission would be meeting the second Tuesday, Nov. 10, and the fourth Monday, Nov. 23, which falls during Thanksgiving week; but around the holidays the commissioners sometimes combine their normal two regular meetings into one.