Island could see emergency services changes

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BY MARCY SHORTUSE – In a meeting held on Wednesday, Jan. 27 Charlotte County Emergency Management Services made it clear they are interested in pursuing taking over emergency fire and medical calls from the Charlotte County portion of Gasparilla Island.

In the meeting attended by Boca Grande Fire Chief C.W. Blosser, Director of Lee County Public Safety Rob Farmer, Charlotte County EMS dispatch and Fire Chief Marianne Taylor, Charlotte County representatives specifically stated that certain county personnel, including Sheriff Bill Prummell, wanted to reroute the 911 calls from the north end of the island to Charlotte County dispatch.

This sudden expression of interest was puzzling to Blosser, as the closest Charlotte County EMS facility housing fire response personnel is off Marathon and Gasparilla Road, near the South Gulf Cove Publix.

“While we rely on them for mutual aid, as we do Englewood, I thought our boundaries were clearly defined,” Blosser said. “When I asked why they thought they had the authority, as it is within our fire district, they said they didn’t know that. Someone at the meeting pulled it up within a matter of minutes on a computer, but when they realized I was right they still didn’t defer the conversation.”

While Lee County has notified their attorney of the situation, Farmer said he believes the conversation has been stalled out … at least for the time being.

“It became evident that research is necessary before any further dialog occurs related to 911 calls in Boca Grande. No changes are planned in how emergency agencies respond. There are no additional meetings scheduled,” said Rob Farmer, Director of Lee County Public Safety.

Charlotte County Fire Chief Taylor corroborated what Farmer said.

“There have been no changes in the Fire and EMS response to Boca Grande,” she said. “During a meeting on January 27, additional resources were offered to assist the Boca Grande Fire Department in their initial incident response; however no changes were made and there is no plan at this time to alter the response currently in place.”

The business and affairs of The Boca Grande Fire Control District, which was created in 1943, are governed and administered by a board of three commissioners which serve a term in office of four years. They are Braxton Bowen, Sandy Burkhart and Mark Spurgeon.

The board has the authority to assess ad valorem taxes to fund the operation of the district and creates an annual budget. The Board of Commissioners has the authority to adopt rules and ordinances to promote safety within the district.

The Fire Department became full-time (no longer a volunteer department) in the early 2000s.