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LEE COUNTY | FMB and Bonita Fire Districts undergo merge proposal

Posted at 11:01 PM, Oct 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-12 15:16:18-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Republican Florida Representative Adam Botana crafted a new bill to merge two fire departments. If it passes, Fort Myers Beach and Bonita Fire Districts could become one.

"We are serving less of a population," Scott Wirth, FMB Fire Chief said.

Hurricane Ian wiped an entire fire station on Fort Myers Beach; washing away a fire truck and an ambulance as well.

"After the storm, our call volume dropped off by 60 percent," the chief said.

Representative Adam Botana is backing the bill, that in his words would, "consolidate redundant roles" and save money.

"This could eliminate some duplication, and this is going to save the area and as a whole, some tax payer money," Representative Botana said.

Chief Wirth says Botana has not called either fire district despite Florida Senate statute 13 saying, in short, officials impacted should be consulted.

Botana says he did speak with Chief Wirth on the issue nearly 6 months ago. He feels the merge of both districts would save about $500,000 for tax payers. Wirth says there is no evidence of this.

"If he had that information, why would that information not be provided. Why wouldn't he have asked us [members of both fire districts] to sit down and say here's my thoughts, tell me why I'm right, tell me why I'm wrong," Wirth said.

Botana told Fox 4 these are tentative plans and the Town of Fort Myers Beach will not be dissolved. This bill only focused on the fire districts.

"The community should have the vote if they want to dissolve their fire department," Wirth said.

The bill is up for delegate review on October 30.