As we reported Tuesday, Florida State Representative Adam Botana plans to propose a Bill to the Florida delegation of legislators that would merge the Fort Myers Beach Fire District into Bonita Springs. We’ve seen a copy of the proposed Bill and can share the details.
The Bill states that as of October 1, 2024, if the Bill becomes law, all the assets and liabilities of Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District would be transferred to the Bonita Springs Fire Control and Rescue District. The Bill revises the boundaries of Bonita Springs to include the coverage area that now falls under the Fort Myers Beach Fire District.
Even though Bonita would become the parent company of the new larger district, the merged area “would continue to use the name Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District for services provided in that area.” In other words, the fire trucks and other vehicles would not say Bonita Springs.
Currently there are 5 elected Commissioners in Bonita Springs and 5 elected Commissioners on Fort Myers Beach. The Bill says that a new election for a new board would be held in 2024 if the Bill becomes law. We understand that Botana proposes that there only be one elected Commissioner from Fort Myers Beach on a new Board.
Botana has to have all of his paperwork for the Bill submitted for consideration by the delegation by the 16th. It can be amended up to and on the 30th. The delegation, which meets in Fort Myers on the 30th, would then vote on his Bill. If it’s approved by more than 50% of the delegation, the Bill goes to the House where it would start in committee, then follow the normal process for every Bill.
Both Fort Myers Fire Chief Scott Wirth and Bonita Springs Fire Chief Gregory DeWitt said Botana called him one week ago to alert them this was coming. The Bonita Spring Fire District Board of Commissioners met this week and the issue never came up. The Fort Myers Beach Board of Commissioners meets on October 18th at 10AM where this issue will undoubtedly come up for discussion.
Botana says the merger would not impact safety call coverage on Fort Myers Beach and this will be better for beach residents. Wirth says there’s no way of really knowing that unless a study is done and that’s what he’ll be pushing for at the delegation meeting on the 30th. He’s not opposed to more efficient Fire District but believes there needs to be a plan that proves that’s the case and Botana has not produced any plan. Botana must also submit an Economic Impact Statement before the Bill can be filed.
When we asked Mayor Dan Allers if he supported the Botana Bill or Wirth’s plan for a study the Mayor said, “I can’t support anything until I have some details. So far there are none.”