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Date of Issue: March 24, 2010

Robinson to have say at WMFR meeting

Holmes Beach Commissioner Al Robinson will definitely be on the West Manatee Fire Rescue District board of commissioners’ agenda April 15.

Robinson said he had asked to be on the March 18 agenda to speak about the WMFR budget and payroll, but was inadvertently left off the official agenda.

WMFR District Chairman John Rigney apologized for the error, and said Robinson will be given an opportunity to speak beyond the usual three minutes allocated to public speakers.

Rigney noted that the board is not required to allow public comment, except during a public hearing, but has allowed public comment for Robinson and others “as a courtesy.”

Robinson has previously been critical of the WMFR budget and wanted to discuss the pay of several staff members at the meeting, and Rigney said he will have that opportunity next month.

Rigney told Robinson he could talk with WMFR Chief Andy Price anytime during normal working hours about staff and payroll issues.

“You haven’t heard the last of me,” said Robinson.

Rigney agreed: “We’ll see you at the next meeting.”

Former WMFR firefighter Dion Niemo also addressed the board and asked why he was fired.

Commissioner Larry Tyler said a personnel issue should not be brought up in a public forum. He suggested Niemo could discuss his dismissal with Price and, if not satisfied with those answers, could seek legal counsel.

In other business, the board heard from auditor Ed Leonard that WMFR accounting practices and records had passed inspection for 2009 and received the highest rating possible from an auditor for a government entity.

Board members also approved Ross Built Construction Co. of Holmes Beach as the contractor to remodel a former medical office building near WMFR Station No. 4 on 67th Street that was purchased for a WMFR administrative building.

 The board purchased the building in January for $1.1 million using contingency fund money. The estimate to remodel the building for WMFR purposes is about $500,000.

Price will now negotiate the contract and specifications with Ross Built and the board will still have to approve the final contract.

The WMFR facilities committee had recommended Ross Built as the No. 1 choice and said in its report that the fact that it was an Island company and many staff members live on or near the Island weighed heavily in its favor.