UPPER CAPTIVA, Fla. — The Upper Captiva Fire commissioners are working to avoid what one is calling "a disaster" on their hands come March 1. This comes as 40 firefighters and chiefs resigned back in December.
During Friday's commissioner meeting, Chair Duncan Rosen said many of them explained the reason for quitting is because of the inability to work with another commissioner, Bill Fry.
"But some of the current – whether it’s the bookkeeper or the attorney and the firefighters have a big problem with working with Mr. Fry," Rosen said.
Other chiefs previously told Fox 4 funding and a failed referendum were also among the reasons for resigning. The mass exodus forced commissioners to act fast when it came to staffing. At some points, they had only two on a shift at once.
"We have a stable environment. I’m very proud to say we have upwards of 25 people plus 7 or 8 new hires," Rosen said. "Now we do have some issues."
Half of the firefighters who resigned came back. However current Deputy Chief Brian Dubrasky said the problem is they may not stay past March 1.
"I don’t think we should sugar coat for the public that come March 1, we have a disaster on our hands," said Commissioner Michael Filipczak.
A disaster as he says there will be no command structure since the fire chief, deputy chief and division chief are all leaving or gone at this point.
Commissioner Van Hammond is part of the committee looking for a new chief.
"So far we’ve had eight applicants or 8 people that express interest in the chief position," he said.
Without the deputy chief, Rosen says they will not have an acting chief for the time being, unless he has the authority to name one.
"If I’m unable to name that interim chief, then we might have some challenges," he said.
Commissioners said they will look into appointing someone at a February 10 special meeting.
Another big issue: the failed referendum. Voters shot it down 36 to 28 in November. The money in it partially supports the district, using property taxes. The previous referendum, which is voted on every 10 years, expires September 2024.
Fry, the commission's treasurer, laid out in a report why he believes voters said no.
"I do think there are other folks still passing out erroneous information," Fry said.
In the report, he claims some of the false information includes a revenue reduction based on the referendum, which he says is not true. He also said there was incorrect language in it, too.
However, Filipczak says the issue goes beyond the voters.
"That first budget motion I believe is what caused the disintegration of this fire department," he said.
The motion back in November was to get rid of the assistant chief's position.
Fox 4 will stay up to date on this developing story as March 1 approaches.