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Flagler Beach’s $600,000 Fire Truck Runs Into Opposition Petition, Prompting Another Pitch

| August 11, 2014

Flagler Beach City Manager Bruce Campbell, left, didn't know that he'd be pitching the fire truck proposal again until Sunday evening. He spoke to fewer than 30 people Monday during the latest town hall meeting on the issue, called by Commissioner Steve Settle, in green at the dais. Settle was flanked by, from left, firefighters Clint Dixon, Stephen Cox, Morgan Walden and Dusty Snyder. (© FlaglerLive)

Flagler Beach City Manager Bruce Campbell, left, didn’t know that he’d be pitching the fire truck proposal again until Sunday evening. He spoke to fewer than 30 people Monday during the latest town hall meeting on the issue, called by Commissioner Steve Settle, in green at the dais. Settle was flanked by, from left, firefighters Clint Dixon, Stephen Cox, Morgan Walden and Dusty Snyder. (© FlaglerLive)

For the past four months, Flagler Beach Fire Department personnel led by the department chief, City Manager Bruce Campbell and members of the City Commission have in one forum or another pitched, discussed, and supported the purchase of a $600,000 fire truck called a “quint,” outlining along the way ample amounts of information about the truck and why it was needed. Fire Captain Bobby Pace first pitched the idea at a commission strategy session in May.

The commission discussed it since at regular and budget meetings, prompted at times by some but seemingly limited public opposition—limited to a few but recurring and forceful voices, not least of them Commissioner Kim Carney. In May, Commissioner Steve Settle hosted a town hall meeting to dispel what he called “misinformation” (a characterization he retreated from in an interview today). The meeting featured Pace and three of his lieutenants. And firefighters themselves have invited anyone to visit the fire house or contact them to hear the information they have on the truck.

Settle nevertheless felt compelled to call yet another town hall meeting to discuss the truck purchase. As he called it to order late this afternoon, he explained that the meeting was necessary because the public has been hearing “only one side of the story, not both sides.” Tonight’s meeting’s purpose, he said, was to provide that “other side.” It was a remarkable statement, considering that Settle’s side of the story has effectively controlled the city’s message.

What Settle didn’t mention until after the meeting was the elephant to come, if it wasmn’t quite in the room Monday: a petition signed by upwards of 450 Flagler Beach residents and gathered by opponents of the fire truck buy.

“Would a petition with 500 signatures matter? In most cases—in my case, it would matter a great deal,” Settle said after the meeting. “Of course I’ll take it seriously.” But, he noted, that was the reason for the additional town hall today. “I don’t want 500 disappointed citizens in Flagler Beach thinking the commission has let them down or we’re not listening to them.”

Rick Belhumeur, the most public face of the opposition to the truck purchase, was at the meeting. He was unsure when the petition would be submitted to the commission. There was a possibility that it might be submitted at a budget workshop Tuesday, he said, though it may also be submitted at the commission’s regular meeting on Aug. 28, when Carney intends to make another presentation on the fire truck. Either way, the petition would presumably see light before either tax-setting hearings in September, when commissioners could still pull back from the truck buy by line-itemizing it out of the budget.

Belhumeur again reiterated his belief that the money could be better spent on other public safety items the city commissioners “want to get and have to get,” such as breathing equipment and emergency radios. When he addressed the town hall meeting this evening, he cited his conversations with Ormond Beach officials, where a quint purchase has led to a “nightmare” of maintenance, he said.

Today’s town hall began with Settle’s introduction, a budget briefing by Bruce Campbell, the city manager, then the question and answer period, with Settle and five firefighters on either side of him– Andy Thomas, Clint Dixon, Stephen Cox, Morgan Walden and Dusty Snyder. Pace, the fire captain, was off.

“This is not a case of a bunch of firefighters who want a new toy to play with,” Settle said.

Click On:

But it was the same pro-truck argument that has been presented since May, convincingly enough for four of the five city commissioners to endorse the fire truck purchase in a recent budget hearing. Most of the few people who spoke today support the purchase. The people who’d spoken in May had divided evenly. But the speakers at both meetings offered their support and opposition with more reason than passion. Whatever groundswell the petition reflects, it was not echoed by the size or tenor of the few people assembled at the meeting Monday evening. (The meeting was held at City Hall’s chambers.)

The town hall in June drew 37 people, half of them linked in one way or another to the city, and that half overwhelmingly supportive of the fire truck buy. There were 29 people in the audience today, including three city commissioners, the fire chief, and several volunteers in the fire department. Neither meeting drew anywhere near the sort of overflowing audience that seriously contentious issues notoriously draw in Flagler Beach. And though Settle repeatedly said that today’s meeting was for the public to ask questions, what questions were asked hewed to the technical rather than the contentious, and most of those questions had been asked and answered before—why the fire department’s Tower 11 truck is not being repaired (too costly, too old, too unreliable), whether the new quint, as the proposed truck is called, will require more manpower (no), whether it’ll raise property taxes (no), what will happen to older tower truck (could be traded in for between $30,000 and $40,000), and so on.

“Were not here to hire anything, we’re here to educate you,” Steve Cox, one of the five firefighters sitting at the dais on either side of Settle, told the assembly. “There’s no smoke and mirrors or stuff like that. If you have any question, come down to the station.”

Commissioners Jane Mealy and Carney took notes. Commissioner Marshal Shupe listened. Interviewed briefly outside the chamber, Mealy said the petition was not likely to change her mind: she supports the purchase of the truck and considers it a matter of safety for the public.

“Petitions always make me think,” Mealy said, “but again, where are they getting their information from? I’m not sure it’ll sway my vote.”

What might? “If I find pout they’re not giving me the whole story,” Mealy said, referring to the firefighters inside. Mealy is spending the last three days of the week at a Florida League of Cities meeting in Hallandale, where she intends to ask a lot of questions of other city officials about the potential quint buy, essentially verifying what she’s been hearing locally.

The meeting lasted barely 70 minutes.

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6 Responses for “Flagler Beach’s $600,000 Fire Truck Runs Into Opposition Petition, Prompting Another Pitch”

  1. Rick Belhumeur says:

    Flagler Beach continues to try and be the “little city that could”. This city only has 4,500 residents and is proposing to spend 4.2 million dollars over the next five years just for the Fire Department. I still believe that spending that much for maintaining fire services in Flagler Beach is irresponsible.The city can fund this department for much less maintaining the same quality of service we have now. Most responsible people don’t go out and buy things they already have and use all of their savings to do so. Just one year ago the city was trying to cut a $500,000 operating budget while continuing to save $50,000 a year to spend on new equipment. Their new budget proposal changes that to an average of $840,000 a year, a $290,000 a year increase. I think that is reckless spending by our “little city that shouldn’t”.

  2. Original Floridian says:

    How was the public notified about this “town meeting”? If more people had known about it, there would have been a better showing, especially those opposing, so they could get their questions/concerns “honestly” answered, right? No doubt the opposition petition that was mentioned in this article will NOT change these Commissioners “minds”. Why does Flagler Beach need this type of Fire truck again and does our Fire Dept. already have someone trained in “how to use” it properly?
    Inquiring Minds….

  3. confidential says:

    Though I am not a resident of Flagler Beach I totally agree with the opposition to this expenditure on the truck and also the over 4 million for their fire department.
    Look at the luscious and numerous fire stations we have in Palm Coast…I have not seeing a small a city in my trips to have so many and so luxurious Fire Stations considering we are a smaller city than the ones I visited. Meanwhile blight caused by residents running junkyard businesses from their carports and garages trying to make a buck flourish all around us to enjoy, as well caved in seawalls in total disrepair because canal front owners refuse or can’t afford to repair them non the less added to the lagging of city crews to maintain our city right of ways in the same manicure manner they maintain the miles to roads leading to Town Center. No wonder PC was placed in the list of the 10 best cities for businesses etc. in the Forbes Magazine.
    So I figured than now FB commissioners want their own little FS palace and supplies. Meanwhile the majority of the local taxpayers are trying to get buy counting their beans to pay the current and proposed always increasing taxes and utilities fees. Local government needs to tighten the belt as we have.

  4. Truth Seeker says:

    Ok, so let’s look at this for a second. You’ve got a “Fire Captain” who has a proven history of not exactly being the most honest, law-abiding citizen (DUI, Obstruction of Justice, Felony Tampering w/ Evidence) and he is the one telling us all he needs a new $580k quint? This is a guy who wasn’t afraid to lie on court documents, and we believe him about the justification of this truck why?

    Then, he goes on “vacation” when he is supposed to be here supporting his request. What does he do? He appoints the panel shown above. This panel consists of less than 18 years of experience among a panel of rookies all but one under the age of 30, with an average of 6 years in the fire service; one with only a year and a half total experience. One of the individuals on the panel has a CRIMINAL RECORD, just like his “Captain”. These are the kids telling us about this toy they want and why they need it.

    One of the most interesting questions should be what is the status of the current front line trucks, what trucks and why are they using as “first-out” trucks, and most importantly how many firefighters are actually state certified to operate the truck? This doesn’t even account for experience on the job; which is clearly lacking.

    Funny how the City is suddenly all about Rosenbauer, after firing three members for going to research the pumper that was authorized two years ago on a trip that was well known about prior to them leaving. Guess we’ll have to see who the city sends on the “big bad trips to the manufacturer” to see and spec the truck, since now all of a sudden they have their so-called expert panel to oversee it and the City doesn’t feel like claiming ignorance.

  5. Rufio says:

    Let me first start off by saying that I am very proud of our men and women at the Flagler Beach Fire Department and the City Commission for taking the time to not only have one but TWO meetings to answer any questions that the public has had about the possible purchase of a new truck.

    If you were at the meeting maybe some of you would get the CORRECT information on the situation. Let me state the facts and not the lies that some individuals like to post in the News Journal or on a petition.

    First of all the truck has been budgeted for years, 50k a year goes into a savings account by the city in order to replace front line Fire apparatus. The other funding will come out of infrastructure. The infrastructure was from the Flagler County tax. The tax gave a percentage of its earnings to Flagler Beach. This infrastructure funding according to STATE LAW and as explained by the City Manager Bruce Campbell in the meeting can only be used for public safety and emergency apparatus. TAXES WILL NOT RAISE. THERE WILL BE NO EXTRA FEES. The account already has over 900k in it and some of that will be utilized for the purchase of a new truck. AGAIN… That account can ONLY be used for PUBLIC SAFETY. NOT for sea walls, NOT for parks, NOT for roadways, ONLY PUBLIC SAFETY!

    Secondly, questions such as Original Florida were.. Are there Firefighters there that can drive or operate such a vehicle? The answer is yes. ALL of the employed Firefighters there are STATE of Florida CERTIFIED on Diver/Operator AND Aerial Operator. This is the highest qualification you can have for this.

    Another issue was brought up about manpower. NFPA is a recommendation. They recommend that fire trucks are fully staffed with 4 people. Well no one in this area staffs 4 people engines. Only big cities like New York and Chicago. Flagler Beach does have minimum staffing with 2 paid people on at all times and a volunteer who rides backwards on the truck. The new truck CAN be operated and set up by one person very effectively. In a matter of fact the driver of new ladders and quints set up the trucks by themselves due to new technology. If you don’t want to believe me on this post call up the truck company and they will drive down and show you how its done in less than 45 seconds.

    The objective of this new truck is to replace the front line truck Engine 11 AND the old 1986 TOWER truck. It is like buying two for the price of one with a warranty SAVING the city money in the long run. Would your drive your old 1986 car on a road trip vacation? NO because it is unreliable and things break down leaving you stranded. Its not a matter of if, its a matter of when.

    Big or small the Fire Department in Flagler Beach has an obligation and that is to ensure the safety of its citizens. They are the professionals. Back them up on their decisions. If you have any questions go down to the Fire Dept. and ask!

    Hats off to the City Manager and the Commission.

    To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often. – Winston Churchill

    • Rick Belhumeur says:

      As long as you are accusing people of lies you should include yourself. Local government infrastructure surtax funds can be spent on other things than just fire safety equipment. Florida Statutes section 212.055(2)(d)2 defines the term “infrastructure” as follows: a. Any fixed capital expenditure or fixed capital outlay associated with the construction, reconstruction, or improvement of public facilities which have a life expectancy of 5 or more years and any land acquisition, land improvement, design, and engineering costs related thereto. b. A fire department vehicle, an emergency medical service vehicle, a sheriff’s office vehicle, a police department vehicle, or any other vehicle, and such equipment necessary to outfit the vehicle for its official use or equipment that has a life expectancy of at least 5 years. The city used these funds to buy the old golf course… they could use it to buy other property or construct, reconstruct, or improve any public facilities which have a life expectancy of 5 or more years.

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