Inverness, FL–This past week your County Commission made a decision that has alarmed many of our residents. I would like to take a moment to explain how we came to this decision and to calm any fears. By ending the contract with the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office for Fire Services we will not be decreasing your level of service. We feel that we can raise the level of services.
To start I must take a moment and commend former Sheriff Jeff Dawsy for his leadership in 2011 when this contract was created. The Board of Commissioners leading up to that decision was an entirely different board then the five men who sit before you today. At that time, contracting with the Sheriff’s Office for fire services was the best option for this county. The creation of the MSBU (Municipal Services Benefit Unit) still remains the best funding mechanism for providing fire services to Citrus County and by ending the current contract, this County Commission can provide the same level of service without increasing the MSBU.
Sheriff Dawsy provided fire services when the Commission of that time could not and we need to thank him for his insight and leadership. We would like to make it clear that the ending of this contract is not a slight to our new Sheriff, Mike Prendergast. Sheriff Prendergast has done a commendable job taking over the agency from over two decades of leadership from Jeff Dawsy. As a citizen I am impressed with the smooth transition that occurred. Sheriff Prendergast is to be commended for his excellent work in taking drugs off our streets and continuing to make this community one of the safest in the State of Florida.
In early 2017, a request for the Fire Services budget was made by the County Administrator. This request was followed up twice in advance of this week’s meeting and the County Commission and Administrator was not given the information it was requested until the meeting started. All five of your sitting commissioners ran on a platform of providing complete budget transparency and using your tax dollars to the best of our abilities. We do not feel that is happening with co-mingling agencies. We feel both agencies will better serve you by running independently. There is not the level of accountability we feel our citizens deserve and there is likely co-mingling of tax dollars.
Fire Services is a basic function of local government, and all but one county in Florida Fire Services report and function directly under the County Commission. By ending this contract with the Citrus County Sheriffs Office this Board is taking full ownership to our citizens of how your tax dollars are spent. We can not offer you transparency and full accountability by continuing to contract this major government service out any longer.
Taking care of the firefighters who put their lives on the line daily is our utmost goal. By ending the fire service contract, your county administration can easily absorb many of the in-direct costs such as Human Resources and Finance allowing us to hire new firefighters quickly. Our goal is to reach a 3 man per truck staffing level in the near future.
Citizens, I ask that you trust this decision was not made hastily and your safety is our greatest concern. We have full confidence that we can make this transition smooth and safe for our community. This Board is more versed on the issues of fire services and we will make budget transparency and accountability our first goal. I truly believe that we will be able to increase the level of fire services by ending this contract. As always, our doors are open to our constituents.
Submitted by: Scott Carnahan, Chairman of the Citrus County Board of County Commissioners
Suncoast Standard (c) May 11, 2017 at 7:52 PM.