There’s a nice letter on KeysNet by Key Largo Fire and EMS District Chairman, Bob Thomas. According to a previous newspaper article, Tavernier taxpayers are inquiring about the possibility of the Key Largo Fire District taking over the Tavernier Volunteer Fire Department. The letter is a response to comments attributed to Monroe County Fire Chief James Callahan.
“If Tavernier went from career to volunteer, they would lose service,” Callahan said.
Tavernier was at one time staffed by all volunteers. But for years, the firehouse on the oceanside of mile marker 91 has become part of the county’s fire department network. Nine paid county firefighters, who are also emergency medical technicians, staff the station during its three daily shifts – three professionals per shift. Each shift is augmented by volunteers.
“The system works the way it is, and it’s a high level of service,” Callahan said.
In his letter, Mr. Thomas responds to these assertions.
Second, Monroe County Fire Chief James Callahan asserts that, because we are staffed by mostly volunteers to support seven paid, full-time members (this is called a combination department) that our firefighters are less than professional. He says that Tavernier would “lose service.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
Key Largo’s EMTs and firefighters are properly trained, consummate professionals and exhibit this daily. Many of these good people are cross trained fire/EMT and also work at other county fire stations.
Chief Callahan points out that the county, Tavernier Fire Department, has nine paid, full-time, people and the remainder are volunteers. Folks, that’s called a combination department, the same as Key Largo.
Tavernier citizens are requesting the switch because they currently pay $2.30 per $1,000 for fire service. If service were provided by the Key Largo Fire District, they would pay $0.7956 per $1,000. In the original article, Chief Callahan was quoted as saying:
Any savings for Tavernier residents would [be] negligible if their district joins the Key Largo district, Callahan said.
“If you’re talking about a $300,000 house, you’re looking at something like a dollar a day difference,” he said. “That’s the price of a Coke.”
One dollar a day is $365 per year. For me that’s a couple trips to the grocery store or seven tanks of gas. It all adds up. Certainly if the service levels provided were different, the citizens would have a harder choice to make. Based on what I’ve read here, there is no reason to think there is any difference in service levels.