Local News

County can officially take over SNL fire department At Tuesday's commission meeting

SEBRING - West Sebring Volunteer Fire Department has already started answering calls at Sun N' Lake of Sebring, but Highlands County commissioners can further officialize the deal by transferring $24,000 in revenue for this fiscal year and $144,000 next year. Also, WSVFD will get a 1986 ladder truck, a 1997 pumper, a 2000 brush truck a 4-wheeler, 20 self-contained breathing apparatus bottles, hoses, nozzles and other fire equipment. Former SNL Lt. Craig Marans said he won't be at the county commission meeting on Tuesday because he'll have to work at his other job, as a firefighter at Avon Park FD. However, Marans is still fighting for severance pay himself, former public safety officer Ryan Feickert, and seven other paid firefighters who lost their jobs when WSVFD took over. "They promised us and promised us," said Marans who plans to renew his request at the SNL board of supervisors meeting on Aug. 23.
"Not by me," said SNL General Manager Michael Wright. "Why would we do that for someone with a part-time job?" Because some firefighters had protected SNL for 11 years, Marans said. "After talking to a majority of the guys, they (felt) that the following options (are) very fair and I look forward to talking to you about this," Marans emailed to Wright on May 29. "We have nine individual(s) that we feel would be deserving of the severance and would fall under the options. The other two, having not been here past six months, would receive $200 each." Marans suggested 64 hours of severance pay for every year of service. Option two requested 10 percent of last year's salary for every year of service, and option 3 suggested two weeks for every year of service. Instead, Marans said, SNL is "giving all of the money we had left in the budget to West Sebring." Wright forwarded Marans' request to all five SNL supervisors, but none asked that the item be placed on the agenda. Firefighters were only paid until their last working day in mid July. Wright said the district was unable to complete the legal agreement with the county tax collector before the required deadline, so SNL will contract for services with WSVFD until November 2014, when the tax collector will begin assessing WSVFD residents who live in the SNL district. For now, fire assessments will be a little less than SNL residents are paying now, Wright said. In meetings earlier this year, supervisors suggested that if the agreement doesn't work with the West Sebring volunteers, the district could go back to having its own paid department. That won't happen, Marans warned. West Sebring will own the equipment. However, he questioned whether they would keep it or sell it. "How can you sell something that belongs to the public?" he challenged. "Normally, it would go to auction." Emergency Operations Director Tim Eures has recommended that the commissioners approve the agreement. gpinnell@highlandstoday.com 863-386-5828