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Fire contract discussion becomes heated

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - Updated: 10:17 AM

By NICOLE ANTONUCCI

nicole.antonucci@recordernews.com

TOWN OF FLORIDA -- The town board has given the Fort Hunter Fire District one more month to provide proof of how it is spending taxpayer funds before it terminates their contract.

The town provides the fire district with approximately $87,000 a year for fire protection services. As part of the contract signed in January, the town requires the fire district to provide documentation of how the money is being spent. According to Supervisor Eric Mead, the district has not done so.

The issue became a topic of heated debate at Monday's Florida town council meeting when Mead questioned Jason Downing, chairman of the Fort Hunter Fire District board of commissioners, about discrepancies in the expenses and lack of documentation.

"You state that you spend $11,000 but your treasury only went down by $3,000," Mead said. "You don't show any money coming in to cover that. I have nothing to support the documentation for expenses paid."

Downing said he provided what the district attorney had told him he had to submit.

"You have our abstract and our minutes from the meeting which authorizes our treasurer to pay those bills," he said. "I suggest you get your attorney and she can talk to our attorney. We gave you that paperwork on advice from our attorney as per contract."

Mead said as per the contract, the fire district must provide copies of bank statements or canceled checks. He added that the Minaville Fire Department, which is also located in the town, has complied with the contract by providing the necessary documentation.

A debate ensued with Downing and Mead going back and forth about what is in the contract. Each time, Downing suggested that Mead speak to the attorney.

Councilman Guy Robataille interrupted by reading the contract to the public.

"You are way out of compliance of your contract," he said, adding that anyone could type up a spread sheet with numbers on it. "We want proof."

When Downing again mentioned that they are following the advice of his attorney, Robataille suggested that they get a new one.

"Enough is enough," Robataille said. "We don't want to hear from your lawyer anymore. You are under contract. You signed it. I don't want to talk about this again. I want this done tonight."

Robataille then a made a motion for 30-days notice that the contract be terminated for violation of the contract.

However, his motion died when no board members seconded it.

"I say that we have the [attorneys] look at it and see how we stand," Councilman Harold Alikonis said.

Councilman Ronald Phillips agreed.

Mead said the fire district has another month to get the documentation.

"I have to look out for the taxpayers in this town," Mead told Downing. "I can't just be handing out money. Every other department in this town gives me the documentation I need."

The issue is expected to discussed again at the Aug. 18 board meeting.

     

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