CHFR votes down merger, WMFR holds meeting

Cedar Hammock Fire Rescue board members voted 4-1 Oct. 13 to end any possible merger of the Cedar Hammock and West Manatee Fire Rescue departments.

At the WMFR meeting Oct. 20, the vote-down was a major topic.

Board chairman Larry Tyler remarked that WMFR Chief Andy Price “put a lot of work” into the proposal. He added, “I’m a little surprised it was turned down so quick.”

On Oct. 6, at a workshop between CHFR and WMFR boards, Price presented his points for the merger. He offered details as to how it could be implemented financially for the two departments and their communities, as well as a sketch of what the department structure might look like. At the conclusion of that workshop, it was suggested that the boards take 60 days to contemplate the matter.

WMFR Commissioner Jesse Davis responded that such a period is “not enough time to swallow all of this,” so a period of 90 days was allowed.

But any prospect of a merger is now ruled out.

WMFR Commissioner David Bishop remarked that Price offered a great analysis of an application of taxation. “I’m a little disappointed it didn’t go further,” he said, adding that many of the details of Price’s presentation were only hypothetical, not definite.

Bishop also noted that the board’s approval of the plan would have served as a recommendation, and that the final outcome would rest with district voters.

Price concluded his presentation by announcing workshops are being conducted on county and state levels on district mergers and consolidation. He said that there are about 1600 special districts in Florida.

Although a bill failed to pass last year that would have made merging districts easier, the assumption is that a similar bill will be presented in the future.

Price said, “Consolidation could be coming down the pike for all Manatee districts in the future. Certainly, there’ll be a lot of new dialogue on the subject down the road.”

Price also discussed a new testing program being implemented for firefighters.

“Until now,” Price said, “there has been a validated written exam, but no physical exam.”

He said the district was contacted by a testing facility in St. Pete about a validated physical test, known as the Candidate Physical Ability Test. It will likely become the standard physical test for West Manatee firefighters, according to Price.

There was a large audience for the Oct. 20 meeting, mainly due to a special promotions ceremony at the outset.

The promotions included Jay Johnson, now a second-class firefighter, and Wayne Faulkner, promoted to third-class. Johnson began with the district in 2006 as a reservist and was hired in 2009. Faulkner started as a reservist in 2010.

The next WMFR meeting will take place on Thursday, Nov. 17, at 6 p.m. at the district administrative center, 6417 Third Ave. W., Bradenton.

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