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Date of Issue: February 24, 2010

Public complains about WMFR meetings

One of the first orders of business at the West Manatee Fire and Rescue District commission meeting Feb. 18 was to allow for public comments, yet, complaints of a lack of time to make such comments dominated the meeting.

Each person addressing the board was limited to three minutes.

First to speak was Holmes Beach resident Ron Robinson, who attended his third meeting overall.

“At the first meeting, I was allowed to ask questions,” Robinson told commissioners. “At the second meeting, I was not allowed to ask questions. I think the people in this district have the right to ask questions. They have the right to know what questions I ask and whatever answers I receive. Some of those questions and some of the information from those answers might be important enough for the newspaper to want to report on them.”

Robinson later wondered why he had not heard about a new policy changing the public’s right to ask questions.

“It appears to me, more or less, some of you got together between meetings and made a decision changing that policy,” Robinson said, “and did it on your own and that concerns me.”

Holmes Beach resident Dion Niemo spoke next, and said he was an 11-year firefighter for the district. He requested 10 minutes to speak. In the three minutes he was granted, Niemo asked why he was recently fired.

“I got fired for no reason,” Niemo said.

He did not receive a response.

Holmes Beach Commissioner Al Robinson criticized the commission as well. Robinson, who ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the WMFR board in 2008, said the commission does not read his letters, and he scrutinized district salaries.

“I get cut off the other day reading a letter,” Robinson said, “and you read thank-you letters from little kids that you have a financial backing with them and all. And you don’t read my letters.”

Moreover, Robinson said, salaries are out of control.

WMFR Commissioner John Rigney responded to the complaints regarding public comments.

“When we have a public meeting, by the way, there’s no statute saying we have to have anyone speaking at the meeting,” Rigney said. “We do it because we like to do it and listen to what people have to say. Every other board gets paid. We don’t. We do it for free.”

Commissioner Mike Mulyck also addressed the issue.

“We do listen to public comments,” Mulyck said. “As commissioner Rigney said, we’re all up here because we believe we’re serving our community in any way we can.”

In old business, Chief Andy Price said the commission met with 14 potential bidders two weeks ago to produce a request for proposals of remodeling. He said bids are due Feb. 24.

In new business, Price said Holmes Beach resident Walter Stewart donated a John Deere Gator utility vehicle.

“We’ve gone over to his house many times to help him check his smoke detector and do different things,” Price said. “He suffered a stroke awhile back and he called me up and said he had bought a John Deere Gator and wasn’t able to use it.”

The next meeting is at 6 p.m. March 18 at the WMFR Station 1, Holmes Beach.