Control: Health, Public Safety & Intergovernmental Cmte
File Name: OPERATION OF MIAMI DADE FIRE STATION 15 AT CRANDON PARK.
Agenda Date: 1/21/2010
Agenda Item Number: 6B5
OPERATION OF MIAMI DADE FIRE STATION 15 AT CRANDON PARK
Sally A. Heyman, Prime Sponsor
Carlos A. Gimenez, Co-Sponsor
Rebeca Sosa, Co-Sponsor
Board of County Commissioners
Chairman Moss relinquished the Chair to Commissioner Heyman for Commission consideration of the foregoing discussion item.
County Attorney Robert Cuevas read the foregoing discussion item into the record.
Commissioner Heyman noted that due to a lack of quorum and unexpected meetings regarding Haiti relief efforts, consideration of this item and all other non-action items was suspended. She noted that representatives of the Village of Key Biscayne, the City of Miami, and areas in the County’s Unincorporated Municipality Service Area (UMSA) served by Fire Station 15, expressed concern that the station was sometimes closed. Commissioner Heyman advised that many areas served by Fire Station 15 were under the County’s jurisdiction.
Commissioner Gimenez noted that many people who recreated along the Rickenbacker Causeway were at risk of accidents with high-speed vehicles. He noted he had met with individuals regarding implementation of accident prevention strategies, which he outlined. Commissioner Gimenez noted that according to a Miami-Dade Fire Rescue (MDFR) report, Station 15 was out of service when a recent accident occurred on the Rickenbacker, and that an automatic call for mutual aid should have been made. He advised that he previously discussed with the County Manager how to keep Station 15 operating full time. Commissioner Gimenez noted that he was in possession of a letter from the County Manager to the Manager of the Village Key Biscayne regarding raising tolls on the Rickenbacker by 25 cents and using the resulting revenues to operate Station 15 full time. He expressed concern that when a budget problem concerning MDFR subsequently arose, Station 15 was assigned part-time hours. Commissioner Gimenez also noted the Fire Chief informed him that he never received revenue from the imposed 25 cent toll increase.
County Manager George Burgess noted that the toll increase revenue was not intended for any specific purpose for the causeway. He further noted that the letter referred to by Commissioner Gimenez was dated January 31, 2005, and the County’s budget was released in June 2005. The County Manager also noted the County Administration succeeded in funding the station with the toll revenue by representing the funding as a Fire District expense. Mr. Burgess advised that in his opinion, the accident was not due to a budget error, but to a dispatch error. He noted that a dispatch should be made from the station closest to the incident, which he indicated was Key Biscayne’s fire department, and that a City of Miami station was near the scene and could have responded. Mr. Burgess advised that the dispatch issue was being investigated.
Commissioner Gimenez noted that fire rescue automatic aid and mutual aid were different. He explained that in the case of automatic aid, response to an incident was made by whichever of two jurisdictions was closer; while in the case of mutual aid, when an incident happened in one jurisdiction, but the assets necessary to respond were unavailable, another jurisdiction responded. Commissioner Gimenez pointed out that the County had a mutual aid agreement, noted he believed a gap existed in the County’s coverage of its fire jurisdictions, and expressed concern about the implications for thousands of people who could be using County facilities at one time. He further noted he would like revenue from the 25 cent increase to fund the full time operation of Fire Station 15.
In response to Commissioner Sosa’s inquiry regarding whether the most recent decision on the County fire service tax was to increase it, County Manager Burgess noted that the decision was to keep the tax flat; however, a decrease of about $30 to $40 million occurred in the revenue generated from the tax, due to the declining tax roll values.
Commissioner Sosa noted she believed the County Commission mandated public safety and the maintenance of direct services when it approved its budget, and she wanted this station to be opened full time, and funded.
In response to Commissioner Heyman’s call for persons wishing to be heard in connection with the foregoing discussion item, the following persons appeared before the Board:
Mr. Dominick Barbera, President of the Dade County Association of Fire Fighters (Local 1403), 8000 NW 21 Street, noted that problem of slow response to the accident was not the dispatcher’s fault; that money was available to operate Fire Station 15 full time; and that the shortage of fire service was due to the elimination of uniformed workers and the hiring of civilians. He noted that funding for fire services had been cut, and indicated that the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) was willing to perform a $250,000 GIS study of MDFR for free, which he believed would reveal many deficiencies.
Mr. Herminio Lorenzo, MDFR Fire Chief, noted that from an economic standpoint, the MDFR had to adjust its levels of service. He additionally noted that improved response time was needed countywide. Chief Lorenzo further noted that MDFR had 15 “single company” fire stations, which did not work well; and as such, he welcomed any action the County Commission decided to take regarding staffing these units.
Mr. Genaro “Chip” Iglesias, Village of Key Biscayne Manager, noted the Village was currently working well with the County and the City of Miami on calls, and would help provide safety services on the Rickenbacker. He noted that because the area had few landmarks, it was difficult for callers to provide the locations of accidents and emergencies, which slowed down rescue response.
Vice Chairman Diaz expressed condolences on behalf of the Commission to the family of the late Mr. Christopher Lecanne, the cyclist who was killed in the recent accident on the Rickenbacker. He noted he wanted to see the results of studies and the investigation of the incident; applauded Chief Lorenzo for taking responsibility for the slow response time; commended the 911 communication system; noted that one entity should coordinate communication, instead of calls being bounced around; and noted he would present legislation to investigate the communication issue.
Ms. Judith Gray, Deputy Director, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, 4301 Rickenbacker Causeway, noted she was joined today by representatives of the NOAA Southeast Fisheries Science Center lab and the Miami Seaquarium. She described the lab’s operations and the potentially harmful materials used there; described a life safety incident in her lab which required repeated efforts to resolve; and asked the Commission to ensure that Station 15 operated full time instead of on certain days from 10 AM to 6 PM.
Mr. Bart Sherwood, 6901 Edgewater Drive, #324, noted ten years ago, he survived the same kind of accident that Mr. Lecanne did not, and he experienced the same jurisdictional issues. He also noted that the area had not been cleaned up by the morning after Mr. Lecanne’s accident; and made suggestions for preventing future accidents.
Commissioner Heyman suggested Mr. Sherwood contact Commissioner Gimenez regarding strategies for preventing accidents.
In response to Commissioner Sorenson’s inquiry regarding which stations served the Rickenbacker Causeway, County Manager Burgess identified the Key Biscayne fire station and Fire Station 4.
Commissioner Sorenson noted that automatic aid was needed, and spoke in support of unifying the rescue communication system. She noted it was impossible to keep taxes flat without cutting services, and this issue should be a considered during this year’s budget process.
Chairman Moss offered his condolences to Mr. Lecanne’s family. He noted the glitches that appeared in Mr. Lecanne’s case needed to be fixed, adding that a long term plan was needed to address the safety of recreationists on the causeway.
Commissioner Seijas also offered her condolences; expressed support for Local 1403 and the GIS study suggested earlier; and asked Mr. Dominick to ask a small number of employees not to spread rumors about operations in the MDFR.
Commissioner Heyman acknowledged that the investigation and GIS study may result in the need for legislation or administrative action to prevent accidents or solidify procedures. She asked Chief Lorenzo and Mr. Barbera to meet with any Commission member if they needed sponsorship of such legislation, and to meet with the County Mayor or Manager if they needed administrative action. She asked Mr. Dominick to revisit a suggestion of Mr. Stan Hills, former Local 1403 President, for ensuring that no services would be diminished. Commissioner Heyman noted she welcomed suggestions for improving the safety of bicycle riders, which may need to be submitted to the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for consideration.
Commissioner Barreiro noted the County and its municipalities were currently undergoing re-banding, and asked that they collaborate to avoid hindering the Rickenbacker communication and safety issue from being resolved. He offered to help Commissioner Gimenez create a bike path or another mechanism to prevent bicyclists from being hit on South Bayshore Drive.
Vice Chairman Diaz noted he wanted to work with the County Manager’s Office and the Office of Communications regarding a unified rescue communication system now that the County was undergoing re-banding, and asked that these entities start discussing this issue.
Commissioner Gimenez noted that safety on streets leading to the causeway needed to be addressed. He noted he would work with the fire departments and the County employees’ unions to break down the communication barriers, and that he would direct the City of Miami to respond immediately when it received an emergency call, instead of being concerned about which jurisdiction the call came from. He expressed support for the fire union to conduct a GIS study, adding that he would perform one of his own, and that he would be reviewing the budget to find a funding source to operate Station 15 full time.
Health, Public Safety & Intergovernmental Cmte
Forwarded to the BCC by the BCC Chairperson with a favorable recommendation
Assistant County Attorney Gerald Sanchez read the foregoing discussion item into the record.
Chairwoman Heyman stated that the foregoing item would be placed under Section 6 entitled, “Policy Matters for Discussion by the Board” of the County Commission agenda for January 21, 2010, and noted, at that time, the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department could provide testimony on the operation of Miami Dade Fire Station 15 at Crandon Park.
(SPECIAL NOTE: Chairwoman Heyman submitted a memorandum requesting that the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) Chairman Dennis C. Moss waive the Board's Rules and Procedures to allow the foregoing discussion item to be heard at the January 21, 2010 BCC meeting.)
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