North Collier Fire Brush Fire Update

Article from the North Collier Fire Control & Rescue District.

North Collier Fire is assisting our partners at Greater Naples Fire District with controlling a brush fire in East Naples. The fire is still very active with the Florida Forest Service reporting 6,000 acres burned with 30% containment (see their Press Release below).

Crews from Collier, Lee, Charlotte and as far away as Sarasota have been on-scene assisting. As with all wildfire incidents, Florida Forestry Service is the lead agency with local fire agencies providing support to protect structures and provide fire suppression along fire lines that are created by Forest Service plows. The fire lines are intended to act as fire breaks.

We would like to thank the community for its support as many businesses are providing supplies and refreshments for the fire crews.

The Florida Forestry Service has issued a press release update as of 5:00 p.m. today.  We have provided this for you below.  North Collier Fire will continue to keep you updated.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FROM FLORIDA FORESTRY SERVICE

Date: March 7, 2017, 5:00 p.m.
Contact: Samantha Quinn, Florida Forestry Service, (239) 707-1654

Topic: Collier County (Lee Williams Road) Brush Fire Update

Location: Picayune Strand State Forest in Naples, FL
Acreage: 6,000
Initial Report of Fire: 3/5/17 at 2:00 pm
Cause: Under Investigation
Containment: 30%
Weather: Winds are coming out of the SE and relative humidity is 38%

Overview:
Sunday, March 5, 2017 at 2pm – City, County, State Firefighters responded to a wildfire on Lee Williams Road in the Picayune Strand State Forest. High winds, dry vegetation, and low relative humidity have been a challenge for firefighters to quickly suppress. Yesterday, winds were pushing the wildfire towards County Road 951. Today, winds have shifted and the fire is spreading towards I-75.

Mandatory Evacuations:
There are mandatory evacuations for Forest Glen, Club Naples RV Park, Panther Walk RV Park and Horse Stables in the Picayune Strand State Forest including Triple V and M & H Stables.

Reception Center:
For evacuees, two reception centers have been established. One center is located at the Golden Gate Community Center at 4701 Golden Gate Parkway, Naples, FL. The second center is located at Eagle Lakes Community Park at 11565 Tamiami Trail East, Naples, FL.

Road Closures:
* I-75 Southbound at mile marker 105 to State Road 29
* County Road 951 between Golden Gate Parkway and Rattlesnake Hammock
* Cedar Hammock Guard House closed
* Naples Lakes Collier Side Closed

Smoke on the Highway:
Where there is fire, there is ultimately smoke, and smoke does not mix well with safe driving. Unforeseen changes in weather may create conditions where visibility on roadways is seriously impaired. Under these conditions, drivers need to be cautious. The best decision is not to drive in fog or smoke. If you must drive under these conditions, there are actions that every driver should take to protect themselves and their passengers: (1) Slow down! (2) Use windshield wipers in heavy fog (3) Turn on your low-beam headlights (4) Report the hazards to 9-1-1.

Resources on Scene:
More than 120 City, County, State Firefighters are battling the wildfire:
* State Firefighting Bulldozers: 9
* City, County, State Brush Trucks: 11
* City & County Engines: 9
* City & County Water Tenders: 4
* State Firefighting Super Huey Helicopter: 1
* State contract SEATS (Single Engine Air Tankers): 2
* State Firefighter Fixed-Wing “Eyes in the Sky”: 1

More information and updates are available on the Collier County website by clicking here. A call center hotline has been established at (239) 252-8444.

The Florida Forest Service, a division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, manages more than 1 million acres of state forests, provides management assistance on more than 17 million acres of private and community forests, while protecting homes, forestland and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire on more than 26 million acres. Learn more here. 

2017 FEBRUARY FASD LEGISLATIVE REPORT

Terry E. Lewis, General Counsel and M. Christopher Lyon, Legislative Counsel

The 2017 Florida Legislature will convene March 7, 2017 in Tallahassee to take up the State’s business for the year.  Our Constitution mandates a 60-day Session and adoption of a budget as the only legislation that must pass.  However, for a variety of reasons, largely related to widely divergent priorities between the Speaker of the House and Senate President as to what should pass, the early betting is that the Legislature may be in Session for considerably longer than the mandated 60 day session.  One of them wants big money for the Everglades.  The other one wants to shrink State government.  Individual committee meeting have begun and will run through the third week of February with a break before the House and Senate reconvene March 7, 2017.  The general setting for the Session is described in the following paragraphs.

While the November 2016 elections brought a shift of power at the national level, no such shift occurred at the state level.  With the Fair Districts constitutional amendment adopted in 2010, and the subsequent redistricting of Florida Senate and House districts, the Democrats hoped to gain large numbers of seats in both chambers.  However, the gains for Democrats in both the House and Senate were minimal.

In the Senate, the Democrats picked up one seat so that the Republicans now hold a 25-15 member majority.  In the House, the Democrats picked up three seats so that the Republicans now hold a 79-41 member majority.  While the Republicans hold a sizeable majority in both the Senate and House, they do not hold a 2/3 majority in either chamber which means they cannot “waive the rules” and ramrod bills through the process.  The elections also brought many new members to both chambers, including 19 new Senators and 39 new Representatives.

There is new leadership in both chambers with Sen. Joe Negron (R-Palm City) being elected as Senate President and Rep. Richard Corcoran (R-Lutz) being elected Speaker of the House.  With his election as Speaker, Rep. Corcoran has ushered in new rules for the House, which include new requirements for lobbyists.  Prior to lobbying any House member or staff, lobbyists must now disclose via the House website any issue, bill or amendment on which they are working.  Lobbyists for local government must also submit copies of their lobbying contracts with local governments.  Lobbyists are also now prohibited from texting a House member while he or she is in committee or on the floor.  The rules also provide a 6-year ban from lobbying for members of the House after leaving their seat, require House members to disclose any employment relationships with taxpayer-funded entities and prohibit House members from flying on airplanes owned by lobbyists.  Speaker Corcoran has also implemented new rules for the appropriations process, requiring a stand-alone appropriations project bill be filed for each new project.

On the economic front, while the national and state economies seem to be improving, Florida’s economic forecasters predict a relatively flat budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.  However, the forecasts show about a $1 billion deficit for the 2018-2019 fiscal year and a $2 billion deficit for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.  The economists attribute the predicted deficits to increased health care and education expenses, coupled with impacts now being felt from tax cuts passed in recent years.  Discussions have already begun about the need to begin cutting State spending to prepare for the impending deficits.

Following is a summary of the bills we are currently tracking for the Florida Association of Special Districts:

The bills that have already been filed that can have some effect on FASD members generally cover topics such as the environment (water and the release of pollutants into the environment), fire rescue, Florida’s Code of Ethics, taxes, the Florida Retirement system and municipal conversion of special taxing districts to municipalities.  The specific legislation includes.

1. Water – SB 10 (Bradley)

SB 10 is the number one priority for the Senator Negron, the President of the Senate, for the next two Sessions. Parenthetically the legislation doesn’t appear to be a priority for the leadership of the House at this time.  The bill would create a funding source for land acquisition for a 60,000 acre reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee by designation up to $800 million dollars during fiscal year 2017/18 and $400 million dollars for fiscal year 2018/19 for land acquisition from willing sellers. The money would come from Amendment #1, documentary stamp tax revenue.  If there are no willing sellers, the law will obligate the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to exercise the option they hold to purchase essentially all the land owned by United States Sugar, more than 150,000 acres and expedite the process to implement the reservoir plan.  The ostensible purpose for the program is to provide water storage south of Lake Okeechobee during high water periods and prevent algae blooms from supposedly polluted Lake water now being released to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers and into sensitive estuaries.

At the bill’s first hearing before the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee February 7, 2017 many farmers from the Everglades Agricultural Area and the citizens and elected officials of the Lakeside communities of Pahokee, Belle Glade, South Bay and Clewiston indicated there would be no willing sellers of land and the program would devastate the economy of that part of Florida, wiping out a significant portion of a billion dollar a year agricultural industry.  Environmental interests were equally avid in support of the bill.  It eventually passed the Committee unanimously after several hours of testimony.

2. Pollution Reporting – SB 532 (Galvano)

SB 532 directs the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to establish and publish a list of substances that, at a specified quantity, present an immediate and substantial risk to the public health, safety or welfare.  Any operator of a potential source of such a substance that experiences a release of such a substance into the environment must report the release to DEP pursuant to Dep rules.  The reporting requirement are substantial.  Once reported to DEP, DEP must publish the release on a website accessible to the public. DEP must also create an electronic mailing list for such notices and allow local governments, new media and interested individuals to subscribe to and receive periodic announcements of any notices.

3. Firefighter Cancer Presumption – HB 143 (Fitzenhagen)/SB 158 (Latvala)

These bills create a presumption that a full time firefighter or paramedic who contracts cancer did so in the line of duty and is eligible for death and disability benefits. Similar legislation was filed in 2016 and received no hearings in the House and only one in the Senate.  SB 158 was heard and approved unanimously by its first committee (Governmental Oversight and Accountability) February 7, 2017.  HB 143 has not yet received a hearing.

4. Public Records – SB 80 (Steube)/HB 163 (Burgess)/ SB 246 (Garcia)

These bills provide a circuit court judge with discretion in determining whether attorney’s fees should be granted to a plaintiff who filed a civil action to enforce the provisions of the public records act.  Similar legislation passed the Senate in 2016 but did not pass the House.

SB 80 requires a complainant to provide written notice of a public records request at least 5 days prior to filing suit and provides that a judge may (rather than shall) award attorney’s fees if it finds the complaint provided the required written notice and the agency unlawfully refused to provide the records listed in the written notice.

SB 80 was heard and approved on a 4 to 3 vote by the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee on February 7, 2017.  The primary opposition to the legislation is the First Amendment Foundation which generally opposes any exceptions to Florida’s public records laws.  HB 163 has not yet received a hearing.  FASD supports passage of this legislation.

HB 163 and SB 246 provide that a court shall assess reasonable attorney’s fees if it finds the agency unlawfully refused to permit a public record to be inspected or copied and the complainant provided written notice to the agency’s custodian of records at least five (5) days prior to filing suit.  The bills further provide that a court may not award attorney’s fees if it determines the records request was made primarily to harass the agency or cause a violation of the public records law.  Finally, the bills provide that a complainant is not required to provide written notice of the public records request if the agency does not prominently post the contact information for the custodian of records on its website and in the agency’s primary administrative building in which records are routinely created, sent, received, maintained and requested.

5. Ethics – PCB PIE 17-03 ( House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee PCB)

Ethics reform and governmental transparency are top priorities of the House Speaker, Richard Corcoran and this proposed committee bill is one of the House initiatives that we expect to pass the House in some form. How it might be received in the Senate is unknown.  There is no current Senate companion.  As the bill currently affects special districts its provisions provide:

  1. Beginning January 1, 2018, all elected members of the governing board of a special district must complete four (4) hours of ethics training each calendar year which address the ethics requirements for public officers within the Florida Constitution, the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees and the public records and public meeting laws of the state of Florida.
  2. Specific subjects for ethics training such as doing business with one’s agency, conflicting employment, voting conflicts and gift and honoraria restrictions and reporting are listed in the legislation.
  3. Section 112.32612 is created to require that anyone lobbying a local government must register as a lobbyist with the Florida Commission on Ethics. This is a departure from the attempts the last two legislative sessions to require certain special districts to establish procedures for lobbyist registration.  As currently proposed, FASD would have on objection to the legislation.

6. Ethics – SB 306 (Clemensu)

SB 306 amends 112.3143, Florida Statutes governing voting conflicts of public officials by eliminating the definition of “special private gain or loss” and inserting language that would allow a public official to vote on a matter that would result in an economic benefit or harm to the public generally or to a broad segment of the public.  The bill has no House companion and has not been heard by a Senate committee yet.

7. Local Tax Referenda – HB 139 (Ingoglia)/SB 278 (Steube)

These bills require that any referendum to approve a local government discretionary surtax under Section 212.055, F.S., must be held at a general election.

The purpose behind the legislation is to prevent certain taxes that require a referendum for approval from being voted on at a special election when a significant portion of the electorate is not present as is the case in many of Florida’s retirement communities in the summer.  HB 139 has been approved unanimously by the House Local, Federal and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee.  SB 278 has not been heard.

8. Municipal Conversion of Special Districts – SB 422 (Lee)/HB 719 (Roth)

These bills prohibit the conversion of a special district into a city pursuant to Florida’s municipal incorporation laws unless the special district, within a county with a population of 75,000 or less, had a minimum of 1500 resident electors. Conversion could not be initiated in a county with a population of more than 75,000 unless the special district had at least 5,000 resident electors.

9. Retirement/Pensions – HB 353(Fischer)/SB 422 (Brandes)

These bills would limit employees of a local government that applies to join FRS on or after January 1, 2017 to participation in the FRS defined contribution plan.  Employees would not be able to participate in the FRS defined benefit plan.  If passed the bills are retroactive to January 1, 2017.

As of February 9, 2017, 1,269 bills have been filed.  We expect that ultimately 2500 or more individual bills dealing with substantive legislation will be filed.  Additionally, the Speaker has required that individual member projects (“Turkeys”) cannot be included in a general appropriations bill and must be filed as separate free standing bills.  To date, 354 project bills have been filed with a value of $762,000,000.

DON’T WAIT, MITIGATE BEFORE BRUSH FIRE SEASON

As wildfire season approaches, there is expected to be an increased threat in 2017 due to extensive dry brush from previous storms, several years of mild fire conditions, a dryer spring season and growth in urban interface areas of the District.

North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District responds to an annual average of 141 brush fires and wildfire calls alone, and that number is expected to increase in the New Year. North Collier Fire Rescue invited all fire agencies in Collier County and Florida Forest Service to a planning meeting several months ago.  We collaboratively want to get out in front of the heightened concerns by utilizing the Foresty comprehensive wildfire mitigation plan and enhance it through supportive efforts of the fire districts.  A part of the effort is a continued partnership with the Florida Forest Service to share equipment, people and fuel. The assistance aids Forestry in its efforts to create fire breaks using roller choppers typically in a North and South pattern. Fire breaks are key in slowing a brush fire and aid in the ability to quickly contain it.

There are new challenges facing the North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District. The continued growth in urban interface areas has led to enhanced wildfire mitigation efforts. Rural areas were typically controlled through prescribed burns, but with the growth, scheduled burns are pushed farther out. As the map changes, North Collier is using it as an opportunity to increase community outreach to help rural neighborhoods prepare their properties for the peak of wildfire season in March, April, May and June. Part of the district’s outreach includes:

  • Door-to-door identification of homes needing care
  • Town Hall meetings
  • Prescribed burns
  • Public Outreach – face-to-face and online via social media
  • Improved GIS mapping
  • Strong regional mutual aid coordination
  • On-going reviews of water sources in rural areas
  • Mitigation Plan for 2017

Collier County is one of the top spots in the State for property loss risks from wildfires and ranks 4th in the State. In Collier County, Orangetree, which falls in the North Collier Fire and Rescue District, is number one for the most lightning strikes in the entire nation. Increased awareness is working in the District including our door-to-door efforts, planned community meetings, social media, annual wildfire round-up, cross training drills and exercises and aggressive public response to fire in the early moments.

As wild fire season quickly approaches, homeowners in rural or gated communities should work on the following to help protect their homes:

  • remove all branches touching the home (creates problems with lightning)
  • clear all brush (tall grass, leaves, branches, weeds, etc.) within 30 feet of home
  • keep gutters clear
  • build with fire-resistant materials on roof, siding and decks
  • remove combustibles from under or near structures (wood, propane tanks, gas grills, motor homes, boats, ATV and cars)
  • trim branches up to 10 feet and remove vines from trees
  • use gravel or chunky bark for mulch
  • install spark arrestors on chimney
  • keep flammable plants away from your home (palmetto or wax myrtle)
  • keep driveway at least 12 feet wide with 12 feet high clearance

Around 20% of Collier County’s disaster declarations are due to wildfires. Continuing to build our programs and outreach will have a significant positive effect in our District.

We encourage the community to join us and the Florida Forest Service at our informational meeting on Tuesday, January 31st from 7 to 9 p.m. It will be held the UF/IFAS Collier Extension located at 14700 Immokalee Road Naples, FL 34120.  Or February 8th at 7 pm at the Greater Naples Fire Station 71 located at 100 13th St. SW.  Naples.

The Board of Fire Commissioners
North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District

PREVENTING FALLS OF OLDER ADULTS

North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District understands the importance of fall prevention of older adults – those 65 and older. Of the thousands of older Americans that fall at home each year, many of them are seriously injured, some are disabled and others die.  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than one of four older adults falls each year, but less than half tell their doctor. The CDC also indicates that falling once doubles your chances of falling again.

During 2014, approximately 27,000 older adults died because of falls; 2.8 million were treated in emergency departments for fall-related injuries, and approximately 800,000 of these patients were subsequently hospitalized.

Furthermore, these stats are even higher in Collier County. According to Step Smart Collier, the death rate for senior falls is 55% higher in Collier County as compared to statewide statistics, and is the leading cause of injury and death to seniors in Florida.

In the North Collier Fire District, injuries sustained from falls are the most common medical call for service and account for 20% of all medical calls.

These are sobering statistics. North Collier Fire urges you to take the time to review the checklist below for yourself or for older adult friends and family members who may be here for the season or visiting on vacation.

Floors

  • Ensure that when you walk through a room, you do not have to walk around furniture.
  • Remove throw rugs or use double-sided tape or a non-slip backing so rugs won’t slip.
  • Always keep objects off the floor (papers, books, towels, shoes, magazines, boxes, etc.)
  • Ensure that you do not have to walk around wires or cords (like lamp, telephone, or extension cords)? Coil or tape cords and wires next to the wall so you can’t trip over them.

Stairs & Steps

  • Always keep objects off stairs (shoes, books, etc.)
    Fix loose or uneven steps.
  • Ensure there is enough lighting overhead on stairs.
  • Make sure that there is a light switch at the top and bottom of the stairs.
  • Make sure that carpet on stairs is firmly attached to every step, or remove the carpet and attach non-slip rubber treads to the stairs.
  • Fix loose handrails or put in new ones. Make sure handrails are on both sides of the stairs and are as long as the stairs.

Kitchen

  • Move items that you use often to lower shelves.
  • If you must use a step stool, get one with a bar to hold on to. Never use a chair as a step stool.

Bathrooms

  • Put a non-slip rubber mat or self-stick strips on the floor of the tub or shower.
  • Have a carpenter install grab bars inside the tub and next to the toilet.

Bedrooms

  • Place a lamp close to the bed where it’s easy to reach.
    Put in a night-light so you can see where you’re walking.

Other

  • Exercise regularly. Exercise makes you stronger and improves your balance and coordination.
  • Have your doctor or pharmacist look at all the medicines you take, even over-the-counter medicines. Some medicines can make you sleepy or dizzy.
  • Have your vision checked at least once a year by an eye doctor. Poor vision can increase your risk of falling.
  • Get up slowly after you sit or lie down.
    Wear shoes both inside and outside the house. Avoid going barefoot or wearing slippers.
  • Improve the lighting in your home. Put in brighter light bulbs. Florescent bulbs are bright and cost less to use. It’s safest to have uniform lighting in a room.
  • Hang lightweight curtains or shades to reduce glare.

Falls can be prevented. Take the time to review these preventative measures to keep your loved ones safe.

The Board of Fire Commissioners
North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District

Hurricane Matthew Lessons Learned

District prepared for near-miss storm

Several days prior to the predicted landfall of Hurricane Matthew, the District began pre-storm preparations by inspecting its 1,000 miles of canal rights-of-way and lowering canal water elevations in coordination with the South Florida Water Management District. The District then authorized residential communities to open their neighborhood discharge control structures in order to lower lake levels and provide additional on-site stormwater storage.

Several calls were received regarding high water levels within lakes after the authorization and some residential communities reported damage to their discharge control structure mechanisms during operation. Communities are reminded that it is important the District  knows who is responsible for the operation of the community’s control structure to ensure they are receiving important weather alerts and emergency instructions.

For more information on the District ‘s storm preparedness operations or to update the community’s contact information, visit http://www.lwdd.net/property-managers-hoa.

This article was originally published in the LWDD November Newsletter.

THINK SAFETY DURING THE HOLIDAYS

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Fall is upon us and the holiday season is just around the corner.   The North Collier Fire District is asking you to think safety as you plan your holiday gatherings with friends and family.

In the Kitchen
Did you know that most residential fires start in the kitchen?  Furthermore, Thanksgiving Day is the single most popular day for kitchen fires throughout the year followed by Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.  Homeowners are 200% more likely to have a kitchen fire on Thanksgiving Day compared to other days of the year.   Here are a few safety tips to remember at your holiday gathering:

  • Stay in the kitchen when cooking on the stove top.
  • Stay in the home when cooking your turkey and check on it frequently.
  • Keep children away from the stove.
  • Keep floor clear of trip hazards such as toys, kids, shoes or bags.
  • Keep knives out of the reach of children.
  • Have activities that keep kids out of the kitchen during this busy time.
  • Be sure electric cords from cooking equipment are not dangling off the counter or in reach of children.
  • Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children, and never leave a child alone in a room with a lit candle.
  • Be sure your home has working smoke detectors.
  • If you home uses natural gas or propane appliances, be sure to have working carbon monoxide detectors.
  • If a fire occurs in a pan on the stove, cover the pan with a lid if possible.
  • If a fire occurs inside the oven, do not open the oven but turn off the power on the stove or at the main breaker panel.

Dangers of Deep Frying a Turkey
Turkey fryers use a substantial quantity of cooking oil at high temperatures and units currently available for home use can pose a significant danger of releasing hot oil at some point during the cooking process. If you plan to fry your turkey, consider these dangers:

  • An overfilled cooking pot will cause cooking oil to spill when the turkey is put in.
  • A partially frozen turkey will cause cooking oil to splatter when put in the fryer.
  • Without temperature controls, deep fryers can overheat oil to the point of starting a fire.
  • Turkey fryers can easily tip over spilling hot cooking oil over a larger area.
  • The sides of the cooking fryer, lid and pot handles can get dangerously hot.

Candle Safety
Don’t forget about your holiday decorations, including candles, which can cause fires in your home resulting in property damage, injuries or even death. The National Fire Protection Agency reports that candles start 38% of home decoration structure fires, and that the top three days for home candle fires are Christmas, New Year’s Day and Christmas Eve.  Review these candle safety tips to keep your family safe:

  • Blow out all candles when you leave the room or go to bed. Avoid the use of candles in the bedroom and other areas where people may fall asleep.
  • Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn.
  • Think about using flame-less candles in your home.
  • Use candle holders that are sturdy, and won’t tip over easily.
  • Put candle holders on a sturdy, uncluttered surface.
  • Don’t burn a candle all the way down — put it out before it gets too close to the holder or container.
  • Never use a candle if oxygen is used in the home.
  • Have flashlights and battery-powered lighting ready to use during a power outage.

Christmas Tree Safety
As many families purchase their Christmas tree around Thanksgiving, we remind you of these safety tips:

  • Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.
  • Before placing the tree in the stand, cut 2″ from the base of the trunk.
  • Place tree at least three feet away from any heat source like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.
  • Add water to the tree stand daily.
  • Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory.
  • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Read manufacturer’s instructions for number of light strands to connect.
  • Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
  • Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.

We invite you to contact the District at (239) 597-3222 to learn more about fire safety during the holidays.

Norman Feder
Chairman
North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District

FASD and Wertz York announce a new program to benefit special districts and FASD!

Members who utilize this program will be benefiting FASD at the same time. Wertz York has developed this investment program where they will match a small percentage of a district’s investment and give that to FASD to enhance their education programs. With the creation of a true foundation, this money will be deposited in the foundation and used to provide scholarships for the CDM program, enhance the CDO program and provide funding for the Annual Conference and our member meetings. This is truly a win-win for FASD and our members. Please review this PowerPoint presentation for more information.

2016 FASD Annual Conference

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2015 FASD Legislative Forum

Emergency Rulemaking Regarding Public: Notification of Pollution Incidents

In the wake of two pollution incidents, a raw sewage spill into Tampa Bay in Pinellas County and the sinkhole at Mosaic Fertilizer’s New Wales facility in Polk County, Florida, Governor Rick Scott released a statement on Monday, September 26, 2016, directing the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to issue an emergency rule amending requirements for public notification of pollution incidents. Later that day, the DEP released a Specific Finding of Immediate Danger to the Public Health, Safety or Welfare, which is a requisite step to promulgating an emergency rule under Chapter 120 of the Florida Statutes, and the DEP posted notice of the proposed emergency rule, which contains the full text of the rule. Under Chapter 120.54, Florida Statutes, an emergency rule may be effective for a maximum of 90 days, but the governor instructed DEP to concurrently conduct formal rulemaking to make the changes permanent, and stated that he intends to propose legislation during the next legislative session to amend the current notification law, which requires public notification only if pollution moves off-site in most circumstances.

As proposed, the emergency rule requires “any owner or operator of any installation who has knowledge of any pollution at such installation” to provide notice to the public and various public officials within 24 hours of “the occurrence of any incident at an installation resulting in pollution, or the discovery of pollution.” The emergency rule requires the owner or operator to provide written notice to the DEP, “the mayor, the chair of the county commission, or the comparable senior elected official representing the affected area,” the “city manager, the county administrator, or the comparable senior official representing the affected area,” and “the general public by providing notice to local broadcast television affiliates and a newspaper of general circulation in the area of the contamination.” In addition, within 48 hours of a pollution incident or the discovery of pollution, an owner or operator must notify, in writing, the same above parties “of any potentially affected areas beyond the property boundaries of the installation, and the potential risk to the public health, safety, or welfare.” If the pollution has “affected areas beyond the property boundaries of the installation,” the owner or operator of the facility must notify, in writing, the same people and entities listed above and the property owner of “any affected area.” Finally, failure to follow this rule’s requirements will subject the violator to penalties under § 403.161, Florida Statutes, which authorizes penalties in the form of damages to the state, misdemeanor or felony criminal charges, and fines up to $50,000 for each offense.

The emergency rule does not provide definitions for any of the terms it uses including “pollution” or “installation.” These terms can have broad interpretation, which could make the rule’s reach very problematic.  Section 403.031(7), Florida Statues defines “pollution” as “the presence in the outdoor atmosphere or waters of the state of any one or more substances or pollutants in quantities which are or may be potentially harmful or injurious to human health or welfare, animal or plant life, or property or which may unreasonably interfere with the enjoyment of life or property, including outdoor recreation,” which is broad. This definition encompasses both a wide array of substances and small quantities of those substances that could potentially trigger the reporting requirements. The rule does not address retroactive application, either, to situations where pollution was previously discovered and notification may have been made to DEP.

It is important that affected clients and industries be involved in this rulemaking. We want to hear your concerns and how this rule could potentially affect your business or industry. We will continue to monitor this rulemaking as it develops. Please do not hesitate to contact us with questions, concerns, or for further information.

Governor Scott’s full statement can be read here: http://www.flgov.com/2016/09/26/gov-scott-i-am-directing-immediate-change-to-public-notification-laws-following-pollution-incidents/

The full text of the DEP’s Specific Finding of Immediate Danger to the Public Health, Safety or Welfare can be read here: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/pollutionnotice/Specific-Finding-of-Immediate-Danger.pdf

The full text of the proposed emergency rule can be read here: https://www.flrules.org/gateway/ruleNo.asp?id=62ER16-1

The DEP has created a site to facilitate providing notice to the appropriate parties under this rule, it can be viewed here: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/pollutionnotice/

Rule No.: 62-4.161 can be read here: https://www.flrules.org/gateway/RuleNo.asp?id=62-4.161

Contact Information:
West Palm Beach Office
Robert P. Diffenderfer Email: rdiffenderfer@llw-law.com
Phone: (561) 640-0820

Tallahassee Office
Lori E. H. Killinger

Email: lkillinger@llw-law.com
Phone: (850) 222-5702

Jacksonville Office
Wayne E. Flowers
Email: wflowers@llw-law.com
Phone: (904) 353-6410

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Email: khennessy@llw-law.com
Phone: (941) 708-4040

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