The project to create an independent fire-fighting and rescue district in the Villages is underway.
State lawmakers representing The Villages, Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala and Representative Brett Hage, R-Oxford, have both said they will support the action in the next legislative session in 2022.
“I think we’re on a very good track now,” Baxley told the Sumter County legislative delegation Wednesday.
A fire control district independent of county control would allow The Villages to tailor its resources to the unique needs of the community that extends beyond Sumter County.
The boundaries of the new district would include all villages in Sumter, Lake and Marion counties, while continuing to cover areas outside the community but within the service area of the Village Public Safety Department.
Areas elsewhere in Sumter County would continue to be served by the Sumter County Fire and Rescue Service.
The district would be able to raise its own funds and determine its own expenses so that villagers know precisely where every penny has been spent.
The district would be governed by an elected council.
While the two departments cooperate on calls, VPSD already primarily serves villages and offers services for the elderly that the county-run agency does not offer.
For example, VPSD coordinates the Community Emergency Response Team, offers CPR classes, and trains volunteers for the Neighbors Saving Neighbors program which has placed more AEDs per capita in this community than anywhere else in America. VPSD staff will even change the batteries in smoke detectors for free to help prevent falls.
VPSD reported an average response time in 2020 of 6:19 a.m. compared to 8:24 a.m. for Sumter County Fire and Rescue.
VPSD will receive $ 16 million from Sumter County next year, $ 1 million less than this year. Sumter County Fire and Rescue will receive $ 12 million, an increase of $ 700,000.
About 84% of the residents of Sumter County live in villages.
“We are very happy,” said VCCDD director Richard Baier after Wednesday’s meeting. “This is a chance for the people of The Villages to have the most focused control and governance. We believe the time has come to give them the choice of how they want this government structure to be put in place. . “
Florida is already home to at least 53 independent Special Fire Districts across the state, including the Reedy Creek Fire Department established in 1968 to service the Disney World area.
The final step in such a move to The Villages is a public referendum which could take place next November, Baier said.
“The process would be” open, transparent and collaborative, “he said.” We want to work with the county. “
The delegation was briefed on staffing issues by Sumter County Schools Superintendent Rick Shirley. “It’s been a difficult year and a half,” he said. “We have a little trouble with the staff. We’re not the only ones.”
John Cooper, CEO of Kids Central, said his agency was experiencing the same problem. The child welfare and foster care agency, whose service area includes Sumter County, has asked for more funds to create a tiered pay structure.
Chantel Buck, CEO of New Vision for Independence, called on lawmakers to celebrate White Cane Safety Day with the group on October 15.
Jeannie Hamilton, The Villages / Tri-County District of Floridians co-chair for the national popular vote, called on lawmakers to consider allocating electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote.
Mark Barry, CEO of Arc Nature Coast, a social services organization in Shady Hills, said it will soon merge with another nonprofit in Bushnell so that this nonprofit survives the increase in minimum wage. The prices for their services must increase to survive in the long term, he said, and they need the support of the legislature and the Disability Agency to do so.
Kate Parker, Florida Death With Dignity board member, has asked for support to enable terminally ill Floridians to receive medical assistance in dying.