Monday, November 16, 2009

Its my game and you can't play or how a few may destroy the 55 yr old Volunteer Fire Department

Dear Southwest Ranches Friends and Neighbors: Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Good Evening and if I don’t see you later…well then…Good Night!

Did you know that the Southwest Ranches Volunteer Fire Dept has been around in various forms and names for over 55 years? The original organization was the Davie Volunteer Fire Department, which was chartered on October 6, 1952. The fire department has serviced at one point most of SW Broward and since 2000, exclusively the Town of Southwest Ranches. Over that long span, it has had seventeen chiefs and the rank and file of firefighters and emergency medical staff have always done a good job. Now, the Wanch is told, the volunteer fire department Board of Directors wants to disband and dissolve the organization.

In its current form the group we view as “our” fire department is legally named the Southwest Ranches Volunteer Fire-Rescue, Inc (SRVFRI). In fact, “our” fire department is actually BSO’s Department of Fire Rescue. The fire fee paid with your real estate taxes pays for fire services and a big portion of SWR ad velorem taxes pays for BSO emergency medical and rescue services. SRVFRI relies on the town for the lion’s share of it funding.

SRVFRI is a non-profit corporation that maintains a relationship with the Town via a contract signed in 2001. The Town has no control, no say, and no influence. In the contract the SRVFRI agrees to provide fire rescue services, the Town consents to pay up to $30 thousand and the amount may increase based on service level needs. Lately the SRVFRI has asked for over $80 thousand. The town presently is paying for the SRVFRI’s pump truck and has supported SRVFRI’s grants and other funding sources including its fund raising efforts. The Town and resident have always view the volunteers as a worthwhile organization and have provided resources as requested. Thank you for bearing with your Wanch but this stuff is important.

Some more legal stuff but I promise, it will get better. Its Charter and by-laws govern SRVFRI, as a corporation. The by-laws set up the organization as a Social Welfare Corporation described in section 501(c) (3) of the IRS code, which defines it as a charitable organization providing for tax-deductible donations. It also means that if the organization dissolves it must transfer its remaining assets to another charitable organization; the Board, fire fighters and the town has no rights to its assets.

Now for the questionable stuff. The SRVFRI By-laws name a Board of Director to carry out the corporate business. The chief is appointed, the secretary /treasurer are elected by the Board and the three member Board serve for life unless they quite or move out of Broward county. Only the Board can elect board members. By law, as recorded with the State of Florida, Lil Sayre is the Secretary/Treasurer, Dick Christensen is a director, Susan Winn, Alyn Kay, Gregory Waltz, and former Mayor Mecca Fink are directors(FOR LIFE). Technically, they are in violation of their by-laws. Christiansen now lives in Naples (out of Broward County) and Waltz says he has not attended a meeting in ages. While the Board has the legal responsibility to follow the charter and by-laws, above is just one of many instances where they ignore their legal responsibility.

Now for the interesting issues that have arisen of late.

As the Town Administrator was forced to significantly cut the Town’s spending, this years SRVFRI request for a $90 thousand payment, got the SWR council’s attention. At a recent council meeting, when SRVFRI was asked where the funds were going to be spent the answer was to build membership. While everyone else was cutting, they are expanding. When asked whether the Town had any input, the SRVFRI representative said the Vice Mayor was actually also supposed to be the fire commissioner. No one told VM Breitkreuz he was a commissioner; nor is there a fire commissioner defined in the charter and by-laws. It was explained that it is more of a metaphorical or symbolic position that no one has held it since the late Johnny Dollar passed away in 2002.

There are some problems here. When the town said they want seats on the board, they were told no. Later when threatened with de-funding, the SRVFRI countered with two seats. The town let the Board know that two seat were unacceptable and gave the Board until Friday to repond. Now the Board is stalling. Recently the Board informed the town that they had no money to operate the organization while it is publically know that they had $30 thousand in the bank. The board does not want any oversight by the town or the fire fighters. The captain and lieutenants, who run the organization day-to-day, have said publically that the board does not provide any direction or policy to the fire fighters not do they solicited feedback from the fire fighters to make policy decisions. The fire fighters are caught in the middle. There are no problem with the fire fighters, they are conscientious and do a good job. The problem is with the board of directors.

Lil Sayre and Susan Winn were formerly heavily involved in town affairs. Both also were running the Sunshine Ranches HOA when the organization was disbanded and reorganized by the residents. The current Sunshine Ranches Board can elaborate on that situation.

Mecca Fink, a long time proponent of the volunteers, was the mayor who presided over the Town when the SRVFRI was formed and while SWR Town Administrator John Canada and his friends were written up in the local newspapers for running one of most corrupt municipalities in Broward, Southwest Ranches. Canada was charged with ethics violations.

Alyn Kay was recruited by Fink and has been on the Board since Dollar’s passing. While Kay has had his issues with Town Hall and some residents, he seems to be reasonable towards the Town’s interests with the volunteer fire department and has spoken on behalf of the fire fighters.

Here is the crux of the problem, Sayre, Winn, and Fink do not want to cede control of the last thing they have in their power, our 55 year old volunteer fire department. While the town has provided the SRVFRI funds since the organization was formed, the corporation owns the equipment.

Unless you, our residents, can persuade this SRVFRI Board of Director (Fink, Sayre, Winn and Kay) that it would be wrong to dissolve the volunteer fire department, it is likely they will sell off the equipment, including the gear used by the fire fighters, and donate the proceeds to the charity of their choice. If you personally know any of these folks, please call them and tell them we want to keep the volunteer fire department going and to turn the department over to Town.

That’s all Folks!!!!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Liquidator Lil is at it again. In August of 2007 when she was the queen puppeteer of the Sunshine Ranches Homeowners Association, she threatened to disband or “dissolve” if you will, the SRHOA because “it was her playground and she did not want anyone else to play in her sandbox”.

Get this witch out of everything that has to do with this town!