On Thursday at the Southwest Florida delegation meeting in Fort Myers, Florida Representative Adam Botana pulled his bill that would have dissolved the Fort Myers Beach Fire District if voters chose to do so in a referendum in 2024.
After a flurry of feedback in opposition to his first plan, a merger of the Bonita Beach Fire District with Fort Myers Beach, the Florida delegation decided not to vote on Botana’s bill in October. Botana’s second bill was very different than his first bill.
Botana’s second bill called for completely dissolving the Fort Myers Beach Fire District by creating two new districts from three existing districts: Bonita Springs, Fort Myers Beach and Iona-McGregor. The Matanzas Pass Bridge would split the two new districts.
One district would be created from the Matanzas Pass Bridge east to Iona and become the Iona-McGregor Fire District. Currently, the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District extends over the bridge on San Carlos Boulevard. The other new district would cover everything from the Matanzas Pass Bridge south toward Bonita and become the Bonita Beach Fire District.
On Thursday at the delegation meeting Botana said he understood that a study was being undertaken by Fort Myers Beach and Ioana-McGregor to determine if merging those two districts would be beneficial to taxpayers. He said as a result of that study being undertaken he would pull the bill, which he did. Botana’s new bill would have called for a referendum of the voters, which is what he promised when the first bill died.
Fort Myers Beach Fire Chief Scott Wirth told Beach Talk Radio News The Fort Myers Beach Fire District was pleased Representative Botana withdrew his second fire district merger bill. “From the beginning, the fire districts, and the communities affected, have all maintained the position that the process outlined in Florida Statute needed to be followed. We look forward to setting the example and showing how the process can work if done properly. The District looks forward to working with the Iona-McGregor Fire District to study the feasibility of our two agencies joining forces.”
Earlier this week Wirth announced he would be undertaking a study with the Iona-McGregor Fire District to merge the two districts. Wirth said “an obvious opportunity for merging the two districts does exist.”
Botana said the issue would be coming back up again next year. He said the delegation will be looking at consolidating some districts. “This needs to happen. Broward County has 1.9 million residents. Lee County has just under 900,000. Both counties have 17 fire districts. How much overlap do we have?”