Future of Avon Park firefighters remains uncertain

With a looming city-wide shutdown, the Avon Park city council adopted a budget late Friday to fund city services for the next fiscal year.

Funding for the fire department was not included, but the majority of the council vowed to adopt a fire assessment next month that would save eleven firefighter jobs.

“It is not our intent to get rid of the fire department,” Mayor Sharon Schuler said. “I am in favor of, and I will be supporting a fire assessment.”

Council members Terry Heston, Garrett Anderson and Parke Sutherland echoed the mayor’s remarks, but Deputy Mayor Brenda Giles is undecided.

“I don’t want to give you a yes or no answer,” she said. “That’s what you’re missing. You can’t force that out of me.”

Councilman Anderson could not force the rest of the council to take up a vote that would have guaranteed the fire department funding for the next fiscal year.

He proposed moving $263,000 around within the budget to fund the fire department now as a safety net, until the assessment meeting next month. That motion died without a second from the other council members.

Firefighter Craig Marans thought that would have been a perfect plan.

“You can put funds in now, and you can always change it later on. You don’t have to commit those funds to it. If we get a fire assessment, it doesn’t matter if it passes or doesn’t pass on the 14th, you can take that money there and put it back in the fund and now you have a fire assessment,” Marans explained.

Much like the meeting earlier this month, dozens of residents addressed the council and wanted something more concrete than waiting for answers for another 19 days.

Firefighters feel the same way since their jobs are on the line.  “We’re still tossed up in the air,” Marans said. “It’s hard to take their word for it when our jobs are on the line. If the council doesn’t come through because of something unforeseen, guess what, we lose our jobs.”

During the September 14th meeting, the council voted in favor of funding the department for 90 days until another fire assessment could be discussed.

That meeting is scheduled for October 14th.