A new bill to dissolve the Fort Myers Beach Fire District will be taken up on November 30th at a delegation meeting of Southwest Florida state legislators in Fort Myers. Representative Adam Botana is pushing the bill because he believes it will save Florida taxpayers money.
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. In addition, Florida Senator Jonathan Martin said he would kill the bill if it ever came across his desk in Tallahassee. Martin said the residents of Fort Myers Beach had too much to deal with from Hurricane Ian and didn’t need this piled on top of them.
Botana’s new bill is very different than his first bill.
The new bill, which will come before the delegation at the end of this month, calls for completely dissolving the Fort Myers Beach Fire District. Botana now wants to create two new districts from three existing districts and that involves 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.
Botana’s new bill does not call for a study before being implemented. It does call for a referendum of the voters, which is what he promised when the first bill died. If this latest plan moves forward, it would be on the ballot in November of 2024. When Fort Myers Beach residents go to the polls next year here’s what they may see if this plan advances to a referendum:
“A referendum question shall be placed on the ballot of the qualified electors of the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District in substantially the following form:
Shall Chapter 2024-____, Laws of Florida, dissolving the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District, annexing the areas presently therein to the Bonita Springs Fire Control and Rescue District and Iona-McGregor Fire Protection and Rescue Service District, and distributing the assets and liabilities of the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District to those districts, become effective?
The referendum would be voted on by the voters in all three districts.
Fort Myers Beach Fire Chief Scott Wirth says the district’s position hasn’t changed. They are against Botana’s latest plan. “The mergers in Collier County, which have 10 years of evidence to look at, show a cost increase rather than a cost decrease. This delegation needs to figure out why that happened before they accidentally impose higher taxes on the taxpayers of Lee County.”