Merger Study to Cost Taxpayers $50,000

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The total cost for the study is $100,000, according to Fort Myers Beach Fire Chief Scott Wirth. Half of the cost will be picked up by the Iona-McGregor Fire District which is who State Representative Adam Botana wants Fort Myers Beach to merge with. The cost did not sit well with Fire Commissioners.

Botana has been trying to reduce the number of “special districts” around the state of Florida and believes by merging some they will save taxpayers money. After a flurry of feedback in opposition, Botana pulled a bill late last year that would have dissolved the Fort Myers Beach Fire District into Bonita Springs and Iona McGregor. Botana pulled the bill because Wirth had announced a few days earlier that he would be working with Iona-McGregor on a study to determine if a merger would actually save taxpayers money.

That study will be conducted by a consulting company called Jangle that works specifically with emergency service organizations. The cost of the study will be $100,000, split evenly between Fort Myers Beach and Iona McGregor. This week the Fort Myers Beach Fire Commissioners reluctantly approved the funding for the study but also asked staff to make contact with Botana’s office to ask the state to reimburse the district being that this “was his idea.”

Commissioner Ron Fleming and Fire Chief Scott Wirth

Commissioner Ron Fleming said, “Adam Botana is someone’s useful idiot. He doesn’t have a single thought. This is nothing more than a money grab. Botana is such a dishonest person he should be in Washington. Maybe he won’t be re-elected. We’re going to keep pushing this out.” 

Commission Chairman John Bennett said, “This is not something we asked for or desired. A forced merger is a criminal act against the taxpayers. There will probably be a denial that this was forced. We’re a recovering community. It’s hard to push forward on something you don’t want.”

Commissioner Jim Knickle said, “This feels like a political decision rather than a problem that needs to be remedied. It’s politically motivated.”

State Representative Adam Botana

Responding to the Fire Commissioners, Botana said the comments made by the Fort Myers Beach Fire Commission are unfortunate. “I have always been concerned about reckless spending by these special districts. Fort Myers Beach lies within District 80, and the taxpayers in our district are my main concern. I am happy to see that the study is moving forward with full support from Iona and the Fort Myers Beach commission. It is important to occasionally challenge these individuals, even if it doesn’t always make you popular.”

According to Chief Wirth the earliest a merger vote would go before the voters in a referendum would be November of 2026

40 COMMENTS

  1. Any time money has to be requested to “study” something, the tax payers always have to pony it up. Here’s a cheaper way-just ask the current residents in person! I only visit a few times per year and mostly during peak-here’s hoping I never need the services because this will be a lose-lose for the island. I have sat in traffic at both ends and having lights and sirens really does not get you through much faster.

  2. Highest Tax burden on my property tax is the fire department. A higher % than any of my previous living locations. A lot commenters seem to think we would get rid of responders on the island if a merger happens… I think all we do is eliminate duplicate bureaucracy.

  3. I had been a firefighter for 25 years and still own property on FMB. I know where the proposed headquarters is, and how are they going to get across the bridge in time? I see that our past fire hdqtrs is being sold to developers.

    How does any of this help beach residents? Isn’t the duty of FD and Rescue to save lives? The cost of human lives? FIRE HIM🔥

  4. TJ, for 50 years since I became a professional firefighter your comment of “sitting around all day” doesn’t surprise me. It’s Not the first time I’ve heard ignorance speak. Truth of the matter is- you wouldn’t make a pimple on a fireman’s ass.
    Watch what happens to the insurance rating for FMB when services, response times, manpower are reduced. It will give you something else to piss and moan about.

  5. I never post anything on any site, however, I am compelled to due to the misinformation TJ is spreading with his multiple posts of misinformation concerning FMB Fire and me personally. How is this my study? When the issue was first voted on it was 4-1 yes. I voted no. Please explain.
    As a retired street fire officer of 37 years in a very busy rust belt city I take particular offense to your descriptions of firefighters and paramedics daily work habits as vile.
    TJ, if you’re still out there please contact me at
    Rfleming@fmbfirefl.gov so we may meet. Happy Memorial Day BTR people!

    • Thank you Commissioner Fleming for standing up to TJ, the Botana troll. He won’t agree to meet you or the chief, TJ is an anonymous typer of bs. Afraid to show his face. I bet he lives in Bonita. Hell, it may even be the man himself, Adam Botana

  6. Botana needs to live on the Beach have a medical emergency and have to wait 20min for Help! This “Do-Gooder” Politian is an Asshole for even suggesting this. If this passes then victims should sue this Asshole for their tragedy!

  7. I’ve been living 7 months a year on FMB on Mango St and we have had several emergency calls that both fire and rescue showed up within minutes over last 6 years. If we had to wait on Bonita to respond the building would have had in one incident burnt substantially more that it did from roof down. The other was a stroke or heart attack issue and probably saved the life of the condo owner. Having closer proximity on an island of 6mile length and only two lanes causes issues so closer is better. As to the cost I believe that is what needs some investigations if we are so much higher than other districts.

  8. My house was destroyed during Hurricane Ian and am currently staying in a temporary RV trailer on the site. My 2023 property tax assessment for our fire department was $ 5,968 and the Town of Fort Myers Beach assessment was $1847. How can the fire department cost 3 times to operate? We absolutely need to study a possible merger of the fire department. Maybe our local paper could publish weekly fire calls so taxpayers could see the value of our fire department.

  9. I agree with the commissioners
    “Commission Chairman John Bennett said, “This is not something we asked for or desired. A forced merger is a criminal act against the taxpayers. There will probably be a denial that this was forced. We’re a recovering community. It’s hard to push forward on something you don’t want.”

    Commissioner Jim Knickle said, “This feels like a political decision rather than a problem that needs to be remedied. It’s politically motivated.”

    Adam is the one who is the one who’s reckless! Hope he’s voted OUT!

  10. As a homeowner and recently retired firefighter of 35 years in the fire service, I can tell you do not want a merger after watching many departments go thru it. To much to explain here why but I would be more than willing to lecture anyone that wants a one on one.
    “Sitting around all day”, more like studing the principles of fire suppression, hazourdous materials, technical rescue, wildland fire, water/dive rescue just to mention a few disciplines they study and train on all day. Paramedics require at least 120 hours a year of continuous required refresher credits to maintain their medical license.
    It’s far from sitting around all day.

    • Right? I mean if we take inventory, Tj has accused the fire chief and commissioner of gross incompetence, duping a news source, “shaking down” an island, disrespecting residents, and the fire crew of sitting around all day doing nothing.

      The chief has invited you to meet with him where he’s offering to open up everything about how the district is operated. If you refuse, well, it speaks volumes about your character.

  11. Why should we pay for a study we don’t need? This guy admitted there won’t be any savings. I believe there is more here than being told. See no advantage to a merger.

  12. I’ve been here on Estero Island since 2002. TJ, are you the useful idiot? It’s a flat out money grab from someone in bonita. “ firefighters sitting around all day doing nothing”. That is an insult from someone who could never do their job. All firetrucks carry advanced life support equipment, including drugs. A fire crew provides ALS care prior to the arrival of the ambulance. It was Flemings study? How did you arrive at that?

    • My guess is the Chief and Commissioner are worried that the “study” won’t break in their favor and their jobs could be at risk. So, they have gone into deflection mode to undermine their OWN study before they are “outed” in their shakedown attempt AND duped Beach Talk Radio into complicity with its faux article.
      How many of you actually live in FMB? Does the chief! Do any of the firefighters? Or, are they like EVERYONE else who have no compunction driving out to the island and sticking it to the residents while they enjoy their lives back on the mainland?
      We welcome all to come out and enjoy the beauty and fun of our island. But whether you are a tourist (local or from afar), air conditioning technician or City employee (firefighters included), RESPECT THE ISLAND and the residents. Please leave your immoral, “Florida shakedown” habits on the mainland where you come from.

    • History, Paul. Try to keep up. Botana agreed to pull the bill and conduct the study to be fair to the process.

      My guess is the Chief and Commissioner are worried that the “study” won’t break in their favor and their jobs could be at risk. So, they have gone into deflection mode to undermine their OWN study before they are “outed” in their shakedown attempt AND duped Beach Talk Radio into complicity with its faux article.

      • No TJ, another lie. Botana pulled the bill because BBFD has a station 3/4 mile from one in n collier. Don’t need 2 that close together. Do a study on that. Bonita fire wants out too. Only people in favor are corrupt greedy politicians Going to out yourself from behind your computer?

    • As a fellow resident and taxpayer of expensive underutilized services, sounds like we are in agreement on one point; the chief and commissioner need to complete the study and make a fair determination on whether it makes sense to share our fine department to the benefit of ALL the barrier islands while also sharing the expense. Only an un-useful idiot would advocate for anything less than an informed decision.

  13. TJ, i live on the island.
    “ Firefighters sitting around doing nothing all day? typical response from someone who doesn’t understand. All fire trucks carry advanced life support equipment and the fire medics on the trucks can do anything an ambulance crew can do. Flemming’s study? Are you the useful idiot?

  14. Funny how this article conveniently leaves out the history of how we got to this point (As an island resident, my support for Beach Talk Radio is waning).

    But, a few historical reminders of how we got to this point.

    Ron Fleming is desperately trying to protect his job at the expense of the FMB taxpayers. This study was commissioned to placate Flemming, himself and he is to blame for the cost. Now he deflects, blaming the cost on Botana? Too funny and typical of Flemming.

    The merger needs to happen ASAP. Here are the cold facts;
    – The mill rate for the FMB fire Dept is 30% higher than neighboring departments.
    – The FMB fire department is underutilized. We have firefighters sitting around doing NOTHING most of the day.
    – ALL FMB firefighters are trained as paramedics earning 8%-10% more in salary than neighboring departments EVEN WHEN THEY AREN’T ASSIGNED TO AMBULANCE DUTY THAT DAY.
    – Bonita Springs doesn’t have an ambulance so the merger would benefit ALL the barrier islands while helping defray the cost of paying the EMTs.

    • Judging by your comments, it appears you’re not well versed in what a firefighter does during a shift. I would do some research before saying they do “nothing” all day. Hopefully you’ll never have a time sensitive emergency, and have to wait longer for help since they could be in Bonita on another call!

      Having our own paramedics on the island is a godsend…especially in high season. You obviously have no concept of response times or their skills. Look into it. And hopefully you’ll never need to call for help! Have a great day!

      • I appears you aren’t very well versed either. Sounds like we could be in agreement that a reasonable course of action is a study a potential realignment for the betterment of a greater number of residents without clouding the issue with an, unsupported, “peace of mind” argument.

        • You’re an idiot. And not from around here. Team Adam is you. It couldn’t be more obvious. Go to the next fire meeting at diamond head 6.19. Ask questions. You won’t, troll

    • TJ: I appreciate your interest and concern in how your tax dollars are being utilized.

      As your fire chief, I would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you and share any aspect of how the fire district is being operated.

      I’m proud of our fiscal prudence and how it positioned us to survive the financial storm that has followed behind the physical storm that was Hurricane Ian.

      Again, thank you!

      • Thank you for your gracious offer. I am happy allowing the study to continue and will accept a thorough and well researched result whereever the results may land.

  15. Botana should stay in his lane. He has no business trying to make decisions or rules about something he knows nothing about. It’s like asking a landscaper to perform heart surgery….or vice versa. That’s what the fire commissioners and firefighters are there for. BECAUSE THEY KNOW WHAT’S BEST FOR THE COMMUNITY. He obviously knew that the bill was ridiculous, since he pulled it earlier. Maybe this is his way of saying he wants out of politics, and would rather be voted out than doing the honorable thing and stepping down on his own.

    • Do you live on the island or are you a FMB firefighter living in Bonita or Fort Myers? Convenient how FMB firefighters living elsewhere benefit from lower mill rates while sticking it to those of us who live in FMB mostly on fixed incomes.

      • I’m on the island with a fixed income as well. My fire tax per month is roughly equivalent to a monthly cellphone bill. But you don’t hear anyone complaining about their cellphones, do you?! The old saying, “You get what you pay for” also applies to the fire service, whether it’s skilled firefighters or response times. The costs go down, so do the services provided. That’s just how it works. And if you have a time sensitive emergency, then I want the fastest response times possible!! I would hope anyone would. But, I’m one of those that value quality of life over money…..remember, you can’t enjoy your money without quality of life!

      • I live on the island and I’ll keep it simple. Botana needs to be voted out, period. And this is just one debacle he created.

      • Now it’s the firefighters fault because they “stick it to us? You’re ill. Im guessing they would all love to live on Estero Island, if they made $400K a year. Exactly on what section are you. My street is close to where the Goodz was. My guess is that you’re off Bonita beach road

  16. You have to love Ron Fleming. Tells it how it is. The one thing everyone on FMB agrees on and that is functioning well is our fire department. Why would we pay $50,000 to pay to get rid of our most beloved asset. Only a politician could think up something so ridiculous

      • That is a lie! If you’re still out there please inform us of how this is true? You can’t, it’s another in a long series of lies from the Botana troll

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