Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Madeira Beach residents angry over considerations to eliminate fire department

MADEIRA BEACH — If the nearly 100 people who crowded the City Commission chambers Tuesday are any indication, any thought of eliminating the city's Fire Department is the proverbial third rail of Madeira Beach politics.

For nearly two hours, the commission listened as countless residents castigated them and City Manager W.D. Higginbotham Jr. for even considering to allow Seminole or any other city to take over the city's fire service.

"We have a great city. Every morning, these people (firefighters) put their uniforms on, they could die and you want to kick them to the curb?" asked Joe Ignoffo, one of many irate residents who rose to protest closing the Fire Department.

Ignoffo and other residents were reacting to news that the city had received a proposal from Seminole to take over providing city fire service and is seeking similar proposals from Treasure Island, the Pinellas Suncoast Fire & Rescue District in Indian Rocks Beach, and possibly St. Petersburg.

Mayor Pat Shontz said "awful rumors" were circulating throughout the city about the future of the Fire Department.

Even though Higginbotham repeatedly explained that he was not recommending any change to how fire services are provided in the city, he said is obligated to present the commission with a balanced budget in July.

Because of a 15.7 percent decrease in property values, the city property tax revenues will decline by at least $500,000.

"We have a $700,000 shortfall in our budget between revenues coming in and spending requests. I am looking at everything," Higginbotham said.

Without significant cuts in spending, it would take a 42 percent increase in city property taxes — raising the present 1.7954 millage rate to 2.5548 mills — to balance next year's budget, he said.

Higginbotham has ordered a hiring freeze and asked existing employees to take up the slack.

"Even the fire chief is going out on fire runs," Higginbotham said.

He said a property tax increase would be "the very last thing" he would recommend to the commission.

If he does recommend shifting operations of the Fire Department to another city, the city will make sure its firefighters do not "suffer."

Higginbotham stressed the commission will make the final decision if he recommends changes in the fire service.

That, however, did not satisfy the Fire Department supporters in the audience.

"I am confused about why we are considering giving up what is probably the best fire and emergency service in the area," said resident June Mohns, which elicited quick applause from the audience.

Mohns then told the commission how the quick responses from the Fire Department had saved the lives of her niece and her father.

"I will never complain about taxes for fire services because I see what we are getting," she said. "The fire service is a core city function."

"It sounds like Seminole wants us, but I don't think we need them," said resident Steve Rayow, adding that he "wouldn't be too upset" if the city raised property taxes to pay for continued city-run fire service.

At the end of the discussion, Vice Mayor Steve Kochick told residents to "stop listening to these stupid rumors from stupid people."

Madeira Beach residents angry over considerations to eliminate fire department 06/06/09 [Last modified: Saturday, June 6, 2009 4:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Lightning edges Red Wings on road

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — The digs were different, the Lightning seeing the masterfully-done new Little Caesar's Arena for the first time.

    Lightning center/Red Wings’ killer Tyler Johnson gets past defenseman Trevor Daley on his way to the first goal of the game.
  2. Armwood pulls away to defeat Plant 27-7, remain undefeated

    Footballpreps

    SEFFNER — First-year Armwood coach Evan Davis pulled out all the stops to get his team psyched for Monday's annual grudge match against Plant.

    Armwood defensive end Malcolm Lamar (97) gets fired up before the start of the game between Plant High School Panthers and the Armwood High School Hawks in Suffer, Fla. on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017.
  3. Clearwater police: Car thief dead after owner fires gun

    Crime

    CLEARWATER — One man is dead after the owner of a car fired shots at the thieves who were stealing it Monday night, police said.

  4. Iraqi forces sweep into Kirkuk, checking Kurdish independence drive

    World

    KIRKUK, Iraq — After weeks of threats and posturing, the Iraqi government began a military assault Monday to curb the independence drive by the nation's Kurdish minority, wresting oil fields and a contested city from separatists pushing to break away from Iraq.

    Iraqi security forces patrol Monday in Tuz Khormato, about 45 miles south of Kirkuk, a disputed city that the government seized in response to last month’s Kurdish vote for independence.
  5. Trump and McConnell strive for unity amid rising tensions

    National

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, tried to convey a sense of harmony Monday after months of private feuding that threatened to undermine their party's legislative push in the coming weeks to enact a sweeping tax cut.

    President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell field questions Monday in the Rose Garden of the White House. “We have been friends for a long time,” Trump said.