Florida Keys News
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
FD reports are overdue

KEY LARGO -- The Key Largo Volunteer Fire-Rescue Department is a year overdue on submitting its 2011 annual report to the Key Largo Fire-EMS District.

The 2012 report, which is due this month, has also not been turned over.

The independent taxing district contracts with the department to provide fire services to Key Largo.

The annual report logs membership, the number and types of calls and other non-financial information related to the departments. The fire department has also not submitted a monthly financial report as required since October, according to district Clerk Vicky Fay.

The Key Largo Ambulance Corps, which contracts with district to provide emergency medical services to the area, is also required to submit annual reports to the district. It has met its deadline the last two years. It is also current with its monthly financial reports.

Fire Department President Frank Conklin offered little explanation last week when the district's elected board asked why it is taking so long to submit the required documents, other than he has been dealing with "requests from the newspaper" for public records.

In previous meetings with his department, Conklin has criticized its handling of records and called for hard copies of every electronic document.

"We're losing documents," he said. "We can't keep up with records. Everything needs to have a hard copy."

Conklin's irritation was prompted leading up to the recent chief's election, when reports from previous meetings detailing new qualification requirements for chief went missing.

Scott Robinson, vice president of the ambulance corps, said putting together his department's annual report is not time consuming.

"It takes us about 10 minutes because we have a format and we plug in the numbers," he said.

Robinson said the ambulance corps provides the annual reports to the district as required by its contract.

"There's no consequences if we don't turn them in and the fire department knows that," said Robinson, who has been critical of the fire department at district meetings.

Robinson said the district board could take action, but nothing has been done as of yet.

"Everyone got busy with the budget season in the fall," he said.

At the district's meeting last week, board members extended the fire department's deadline to March after Conklin said he would provide assessments for both 2011 and 2012.

District board member Tony Allen told the Free Press that the only repercussion he is aware of should the fire department fail to act would be to void the district's contract with fire department, a move he said he considers "drastic."

Allen would not confirm if he is investigating how to remove the fire department, though he said he has been asked to do so by some supporters. He said it is not fair to the ambulance corps if there are no ramifications for the fire department for missing the deadlines.

"My concern is we're setting a bad example here," Allen said.

If the district were to void its contract with the Key Largo fire department, it could be forced to contract with Monroe County for fire services, a move that might result in higher property taxes.

jgore@keysnews.com

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