Saving Harmony's Fire Station

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Geo

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Nov 30, 2010, 6:08:03 PM11/30/10
to HarmonyFL
This thread is primarily directed at Fred Hawkins and Adam Seithel. Of
course, anyone else is free to chime in.

Well Mr. Seithel and Fred, I am sorry that none of my neighbors has so
far stepped forward to begin this important discussion. Please don't
take that as an indication that Harmony residents don't care about
losing their fire station. We do.

Besides the potential loss of life that closing the Harmony fire
station could entail, we also care about the sudden increase in our
home owners insurance rates once we lose our fire response rating.
(What is that? Can someone please clarify why our home owners rates
will suddenly jump up after the Harmony fire station gets shutdown?
Are we talking hundreds or thousands of dollars per house per year?)

Most of us don't understand the intricacies of government finance
gentlemen, so please bear with us and try to keep it plain and simple.
As Joe Miller would say "Now, explain it to me like I'm a four-year-
old."

I will get the ball rolling with a few direct questions. Questions
specifically for Fred Hawkins will be prefixed like this "FHQ)".
Questions specifically for Adam Seithel will be prefixed like this
"ASQ)". Of course, anyone is free to contribute to any question they
feel qualified to answer.

Ready? Here we go.

Here is Fred Hawkins' most recent statement on the topic of the
possible closing of the Harmony fire station:

http://tinyurl.com/389asm3

Fred wrote:

If an agreement is not reached there will be at least
one closure of a station and the lost of 15-20 fire
fighter jobs.

Here is Adam Seithel's most recent statement on the topic of the
possible closing of the Harmony fire station:

http://tinyurl.com/2a9r4fg

Mr. Seithel wrote:

the budget for all fire stations has been FULLY
budgeted for this year, funding ALL fire stations and
fireman.

FHQ) To your understanding is Mr. Seithel's statement accurate? If
not, why not?

ASQ) Based on the fact that the Harmony fire station has been fully
funded for this year, what is the earliest date that it would be
closed, assuming that nothing changes in the negotiations between the
firefighter's union and the county commission?

spberube

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Nov 30, 2010, 6:55:34 PM11/30/10
to harm...@googlegroups.com
George, Fred, Adam and others concerned;

I consider this to be a High Priority matter and as a Director of the Harmony Residential Owners Association, I will bring it up to those in attendance at the HROA meeting this Thursday, December 2 @ 530 PM.

I suspect that the lack of engagement by residents is because they are not aware that this issue has flared up once again; believing instead that the summer meetings put it to bed.

So, Fred, I think that this needs some publicity outside of this forum and you certainly are in the position to get that ball rolling. While this affects only a small population now, it likely will be a county-wide issue soon. Why? Simple--it's about money. Next year's fire budget will likely be constrained as this year's was meaning that another fire station will likely need be closed.

My promise is this: While I was all for increasing the fees to save our station this year, IF OUR STATION CLOSES I will advocate for cutting the fee next year and consolidating two more stations to save enough to balance the budget.

This IS all about the money and there's plenty of blame and accusations all around. Let's quit the word games and get down to business. Perhaps a Town Hall meeting with Fred & Adam present is in order?? Maybe even a county-wide town hall meeting with the Commissioners and Union Reps?? Public scrutiny can be a mighty powerful negotiating tool and forces the chips to fall where they may.

Thanks to George for re-opening this discussion.

Steve Berube

Geo

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Nov 30, 2010, 8:10:53 PM11/30/10
to harm...@googlegroups.com
Thank you Steve. If anyone asks how to find this discussion, please tell
them:

HarmonyFLcommons.com

It is easier to remember than "the HarmonyFL group on Google", especially if
you are not familiar with Google groups.

Also, I would like to suggest that holding a discussion publicly online
(like this) is preferable to a public meeting for several reasons:

.) Many folks are unavailable when meetings are scheduled.

.) Many folks with children can't attend meetings at all.

.) Folks are often too tired to attend meetings on work days.

.) There is usually no written record of what is said at meetings.

.) If there is a written record, it may be inaccurate or unavailable for
months.

.) Anyone can participate in online discussions at their leisure.

.) Anyone can read every word (written by the original writer, ie. not
transcribed) without the need to participate.

.) The permanent record of the discussion can be accessed by anyone, anytime
now or in the future for free.

.) Since all participants must reply directly in their own words, there are
fewer misunderstandings.

.) Each participant can be held accountable to this permanent record for
whatever they write.

wallsr

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Nov 30, 2010, 9:16:20 PM11/30/10
to harm...@googlegroups.com
Here's what I'm trying to figure out:

Furloughs are obviously not conducive to a profession that requires staffing
24/7. I have a hard time believing that the County would actually propose
that firefighters take furloughs. My guess is that the County requested
that the Union make some concession(s) in lieu of furloughs that would make
up the required amount of funding. What is it exactly (if anything) that
the County has asked the Union to forgo in lieu of furloughs?

Secondly, if I recall correctly, when the fire budget for FY 11 was
approved, it was stated by at least one Commissioner at the meeting (I want
to say it was Ken Smith) that while they were moving forward with the
budget, the firefighters would have to work with the County to find the
savings required to make the budget work. So, I think this issue was never
actually finalized and it was understood that something would have to be
done before the year was over to produce the necessary savings. My question
here would be directed at the Union, what (if anything) has the Union asked
for in return for the items it has proposed concessions on? It seems to me
that the County would jump at most of the concession items that Adam put
forward, provided that they produced the stated savings and didn't come with
costly strings attached.

On this issue, I lay blame on both sides for not settling on concession
terms prior to actually approving and enacting the budget. I lay blame on
the County for approving a Union contract that it apparently can't afford
without more fee increases and I lay blame on the Union for playing chicken
to the point where its members could lose their jobs, which is where this
will go if they don't play ball. The real losers here are citizens that pay
more in fees, get reduced fire service, and pay higher insurance bills (if
they can get it).

What upsets me most is that residents generally accepted and the County
approved fire fee increases to keep our brand new fire station open. Now
we're being told that fees increased but our level of service will go down.
That being the case, I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Berube on this issue:
if our fire station is closed, I will do everything in my power to advocate
for a fire fee decrease next year and the consolidation of more stations so
that other areas of the County have the same response times as those that
will be enjoyed (or not) by Harmony and other East Osceola County residents.

Let's get together and make something happen so that we don't have to get to
that point.

Ray Walls

Adam Seithel

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Dec 1, 2010, 5:50:30 PM12/1/10
to HarmonyFL
Geo,

As a response to the question you asked:

ASQ) Based on the fact that the Harmony fire station has been fully
funded for this year, what is the earliest date that it would be
closed, assuming that nothing changes in the negotiations between the
firefighter's union and the county commission?

As apart of the discussions with the County and Management the closing
of any fire stations or laying off any fireman has never been a
discussion or statement made. I was emailed by a resident about the
comment made from Commissioner Hawkins stating a fire station will be
closing and fireman being laid off. So I will not be able to answer
your question because this has never been a discussion with the
Union.

I remain committed to all residents and to the County to have open
discussions and have no intentions of reducing level of service to
anywhere in the County or to laying off fireman.

Adam

Geo

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Dec 2, 2010, 6:58:51 AM12/2/10
to harm...@googlegroups.com
Thank you Mr. Seithel. I should have realized that the question was for Fred
instead.

FHQ) Based on the fact that the Harmony fire station has been fully funded
for this year (according to Mr. Seithel), what is the earliest date that it


would be closed, assuming that nothing changes in the negotiations between

the firefighter's union and the county commission? Fred, please bear in mind
that we are trying to understand how urgent this matter really is. If the
fire station can possibly be closed next week, for example, we need to know
right away.

We also have a few other open questions:

FHQ) To your understanding is Mr. Seithel's statement
accurate? If not, why not?

From Ray Walls:

What is it exactly (if anything) that the County has
asked the Union to forgo in lieu of furloughs?

My question here would be directed at the Union, what

Geo

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Dec 2, 2010, 11:12:06 PM12/2/10
to HarmonyFL
There are a couple more open questions that I almost forgot about.

I asked these questions in the first post of this thread:

Can someone please clarify why our home owners rates
will suddenly jump up after the Harmony fire station
gets shutdown?

Are we talking hundreds or thousands of dollars per
house per year?

I could be mistaken, but I think it was Steve Berube who first
suggested that our insurance rates would jump up if the Harmony fire
station is closed.

Can you answer these questions Steve or let us know who can?

spberube

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Dec 3, 2010, 8:06:36 AM12/3/10
to harm...@googlegroups.com
George--

The Insurance concern arises as a result of ISO Fire protection Ratings...I believe that we are currently a Level 4 (on a scale of 10)....Information was provided that if the Station closed, we would be at a level 9 which obviously would cause the Fire hazard portion of your premium to rise...of course, the exact increase would be based on your home's value, size and how your insurer decided to view the lack of a station within range.

I have heard many wild numbers thrown about...I don't think any of them are based on facts...but, I looked at my policy and my non-hurricane TOTAL insurance bill is $451 this year...My expectation is that will likely raise by $100 if the station closes....

I am NOT an insurance expert nor do I have any guidance here...I'm just looking at MY numbers and making a presumption.

More important than the money are response times---a relative who lives here recently needed Rescue--Ladder 54 ( the only vehicle at our station ) arrived in about 3 minutes which is pretty good---but Rescue took so long that they called 9-1-1 back to be sure that they were indeed coming. I'm not blaming Rescue---but the reality is that minutes count and DISTANCE takes MINUTES to overcome. That happened at 3 AM on a Sunday morning---imagine the daytime response times considering traffic and such.

Anyway, it should be clear to all that this is a HUGE issue and I would hope that everyone gets on board to do all they can and finally resolve this.

Steve Berube


-----Original Message-----
>From: Geo <IIDIMG...@spammotel.com>
>Sent: Dec 2, 2010 11:12 PM
>To: HarmonyFL <harm...@googlegroups.com>

Dave Leeman

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Dec 4, 2010, 5:59:32 AM12/4/10
to HarmonyFL
So, which is it? Are you thinking about closing a fire station
somewhere in Osceola County, or are you thinking about closing the
fire station in Harmony?
> >>     items it has proposed concessions on?- Hide quoted text -
>
> - Show quoted text -

Dave Leeman

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Dec 4, 2010, 7:19:26 AM12/4/10
to HarmonyFL
I apologize for not being more specific in my first post. My question
is for Mr Hawkins. Is it the County's position that if negotiations
don't work that a fire station, somewhere in the county, will be
closed? Or is it that if negotiations don't work that the fire
station in Harmony will be the one that is closed?

On Dec 3, 8:06 am, spberube <spber...@earthlink.net> wrote:

Geo

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Dec 4, 2010, 8:08:14 PM12/4/10
to HarmonyFL
It would appear that Fred Hawkins is having technical difficulties. He
has told me that he wants to respond, but he seems to be having
problems with his computer.

Fred has given me the "OK" to share the details of an open letter he
wrote to Adam Seithel a week or so ago. This seems like the reasonable
thing to do in the mean time while Fred tries to resolve his computer
problems. Hopefully the technical folks who work for the county
commission can help Fred get his computer working again soon.

Fred's letter was written in response to Mr. Seithel's response to a
lady in Kissimmee.

Mr. Seithel wrote:

I have and I can tell you that the Union has offered up
multiple options and ideas such as freezing open
positions (not to hire or promote the current 12 open
positions), freezing our merit increases, freeze our
annual physicals, 1/2 our uniform allowance, and
freezing our mandatory monthly BC's meetings as ideas
that would result in the County saving the same amount
they were looking for to cover the furlough cost for
firefighters, if not more. Regarding the merit
increases, we even offered to give those up and
management stated "NO" and they would rather have us be
furloughed. Perhaps you should contact your County
commissioner and request they entertain some of the
cost saving options we have offered, some which would
save more than the $600,000 they are asking of us. This
Union has presented several offers as we are aware of
the financial situation of the County, however
management has been more than reluctant to entertain
any of our cost saving suggestions.

There are multiple reasons we cannot take furloughs,
and multiple reasons why we cannot give up holiday pay;
most of this would take up an extremely large email.
However, if you are interested, I would suggest you
contact Beth Knight at bk...@osceola.org and your county
commissioner(s) and ask why they turned down the over
$1 million savings the Union has offered, including
turning down the bargaining unit member merit
increases.

Fred Hawkins responded:

I recall during the budget times when many people were
emailing me about the possible closure…I responded to
them as the elected leadership role that I choose to
take. ... The best advise I can give you is be upfront
and never try to sway from what is real and what is not
relevant. That brings me to your response below to the
citizen. The only truth in your response to the citizen
is that you did make these offers. In reality you
know the offers you made have no impact to the
situation faced and in fact in some case will cost more
money.

Let me explain….

1) Merit pay Increases- you only raised this issue when
you were requested to come to the table for
negotiations. Therefore you are trying to use this as a
negotiation tool. There is no cost savings to this
offer.

2) The 12 positions not being hired will only increase
overtime and end up costing more in the long run.

3) Giving up the physicals, you know would increase the
workman’s comp insurance. The job you do requires the
physicals to keep the cost down. this would have an
increase higher than the savings.

Allow me to give two more suggestions that could help.
Give up the $300 per year boot payment per fire fighter
and also the dry cleaning of uniforms that is paid for
by the county? Every little bit would help.

Adam, City of Orlando and Orange county all came to
the table to make concessions to get through this tough
budget times. How did your Union go from a meeting, at
the Pine Grove Station, that you invited me to that
discussed keeping a station open to a stance that you
know will cause at least one to close? When did the
Union leadership change their direction on protecting
the jobs of all Fireman to just saving 48 hours of
holiday pay. Do your newly hired fire fighters, the
ones that more than likely would be let go agree with
your strategy? Do they even know of the position and
the outcome of it?

This is not the first reference to the possible closing of at least
one fire station in our area. I don't recall which meeting, but I
distinctly remember that Fred stated plainly that if nothing changes
in all likelihood either the Harmony fire station or the Pine Grove
fire station will be closed and possibly both. This is consistent with
what Fred wrote on 11/20 (see http://tinyurl.com/2wssgxj ):

If an agreement is not reached there will be at least
one closure of a station and the lost of 15-20 fire
fighter jobs.

I think I heard that these two stations could be closed and replaced
by some consolidated station on Old Melbourne Highway. That station
would serve both Harmony and Pine Grove. I would appreciate it if
someone would correct me if I am wrong on any of this.

We still have a few open questions, including a few new ones:

FHQ) To your understanding is Mr. Seithel's statement
accurate? If not, why not?

FHQ) What is it exactly (if anything) that the County has
asked the Union to forgo in lieu of furloughs?

ASQ) My question here would be directed at the Union, what
(if anything) has the Union asked for in return for the
items it has proposed concessions on?

From Dave Leeman:

Adam Seithel

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Dec 4, 2010, 9:29:36 PM12/4/10
to HarmonyFL
While Im greatful to have the opportunity to reply directly to the
residents of Harmony, I would like to thank Geo, because Im having
problems with my computer also... maybe you should edit everything
that was incorrectly provided by Hawkins for everyone to read from one
email he replied to me, before he was properly informed of the status
of our discussions.

ASQ) My question here would be directed at the Union, what
(if anything) has the Union asked for in return for the
items it has proposed concessions on?


We have asked for an extension of the contract, non monetary language
changes in the contract, and the same amount of hours off as every
other BOCC employee has been given.

I beleive that is all the questions that have been asked of me, if
there is any further questions please reply.

Adam
>     contact Beth Knight at b...@osceola.org and your county

Geo

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Dec 5, 2010, 12:02:03 AM12/5/10
to HarmonyFL
Thank you for your prompt feedback Mr. Seithel. I think that you have
now answered all questions directed at you.

Thank you Steve for also quickly answering a few questions earlier.

I just realized that I left out one question for Fred. So here's the
complete list of open questions again:

FHQ) Based on the fact that the Harmony fire station
has been fully funded for this year (according to Mr.
Seithel), what is the earliest date that it would be
closed, assuming that nothing changes in the
negotiations between the firefighter's union and the
county commission? Fred, please bear in mind that we
are trying to understand how urgent this matter really
is. If the fire station can possibly be closed next
week, for example, we need to know right away.

FHQ) To your understanding is Mr. Seithel's statement
accurate? If not, why not?

FHQ) What is it exactly (if anything) that the County has
asked the Union to forgo in lieu of furloughs?

FHQ) Is it the County's position that if negotiations
don't work that a fire station, somewhere in the
county, will be closed? Or is it that if negotiations
don't work that the fire station in Harmony will be the
one that is closed?


Fred Hawkins Jr.

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Dec 7, 2010, 6:26:51 AM12/7/10
to harm...@googlegroups.com
Did you post my last comments?

Fred Hawkins, Jr.
Osceola County Commission
District 5
Please Note: Florida has a very broad Public Records Law. E-mails to this entity or its employees may be considered a public record. Your e-mail communication, including your email address may be disclosed to the public and media at any time.

Geo

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Dec 7, 2010, 7:47:33 AM12/7/10
to HarmonyFL
I am sorry Fred, but there have been no comments from you since your
post on 11/20/2010 (see http://tinyurl.com/28d97pb ).

Geo

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Dec 7, 2010, 6:25:20 PM12/7/10
to HarmonyFL
Ms. Rivera-Lyles posted this story on the Sentinel's website last
night:

Osceola commission fires county attorney, auditor
http://tinyurl.com/27asbop

Since this commission vote appears to be a cost savings measure,
perhaps the money saved will have some bearing on the decision to
possibly close Harmony's fire station (or the Pine Grove fire
station).

Here's another article written by Ms. Rivera-Lyles last year:

Osceola struggles with costs of fire services
http://tinyurl.com/2blns5h

This article talks about how the possible closing of the Pine Grove
fire station was already discussed at length by the Osceola County
Commission a year and a half ago. So if any fire station in our area
gets closed, it's looking more likely to be Harmony's fire station.
Say it ain't so Fred.

I really wish that Fred Hawkins would be more forthcoming about all of
this.

Fred Hawkins Jr.

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Dec 7, 2010, 6:36:08 PM12/7/10
to harm...@googlegroups.com
There has been agreement on a station closing. If I was to guess I think Pine Grove would be looked at first. That one has always been the topic of discussion. There has been talk of combining Pine Grove and Harmony on Old Melbourne Hwy. As for the firings last night in was nothing but personal for those that voted for it. Not sure if the story written stated that in their contract the 2 that were fired now get 300k in severence. So where is the cost savings. As yo can tell I did not vote for it. As for being forthcoming I did have a mistake in addressing the blog and it was my own fault. But if anyone wants to speak to me about anything my email and phone number is out there. The information I have supplied is all I currently have. God Bless

Jim Warren (Home)

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Dec 7, 2010, 6:47:28 PM12/7/10
to harm...@googlegroups.com
So how does your logic work with that George?

I see no reason in the article that the closure of a Station SHOULD Be
Harmony. I would take from that article that the station stayed open for no
reason other that they decided not to close it..... Why wouldn't they go
back again this year and review closing it again? It could not and does not
have the facilities that Harmony has, so it would make sense to move the
engines to the better equipped more conveniently and busier Harmony station
don’t' you??

Lets stop all this scaremongering for the sake of a post.... Once we here
from the county that a Station HAS TO CLOSE, then it would make sense to
discuss how the community makes a stand...until then......

-----Original Message-----
From: harm...@googlegroups.com [mailto:harm...@googlegroups.com] On

Geo

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Dec 7, 2010, 7:07:04 PM12/7/10
to HarmonyFL
Thank you for your response Fred.

Jim, you really need to stop making your contributions so personal.
This topic has nothing to do with me. Please leave me out of your
messages on this thread, OK?

From Fred:

There has been agreement on a station closing.

This means that this topic is very serious. It is now clear that a
station must close. We must do all that we can to prevent the Harmony
station from closing.

Please answer the open questions at your earliest convenience Fred.


On Dec 7, 6:47 pm, "Jim Warren \(Home\)" <jm.war...@btinternet.com>
wrote:
> So how does your logic work with that George?
>
> I see no reason in the article that the closure of a Station SHOULD Be
> Harmony. I would take from that article that the station stayed open for no
> reason other that they decided not to close it..... Why wouldn't they go
> back again this year and review closing it again? It could not and does not
> have the facilities that Harmony has, so it would make sense to move the
> engines to the better equipped more conveniently and busier Harmony station
> don’t' you??
>
> Lets stop all this scaremongering for the sake of a post.... Once we here
> from the county that a Station HAS TO CLOSE, then it would make sense to
> discuss how the community makes a stand...until then......
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: harm...@googlegroups.com [mailto:harm...@googlegroups.com] On
>
> Behalf Of Geo
> Sent: Tuesday, December 07, 2010 6:25 PM
> To: HarmonyFL
> Subject: [HarmonyFL:841] Re: Saving Harmony's Fire Station
>
> Ms. Rivera-Lyles posted this story on the Sentinel's website last
> night:
>
> Osceola commission fires county attorney, auditorhttp://tinyurl.com/27asbop
>
> Since this commission vote appears to be a cost savings measure,
> perhaps the money saved will have some bearing on the decision to
> possibly close Harmony's fire station (or the Pine Grove fire
> station).
>
> Here's another article written by Ms. Rivera-Lyles last year:
>
> Osceola struggles with costs of fire serviceshttp://tinyurl.com/2blns5h

Jim Warren (Home)

unread,
Dec 8, 2010, 7:00:02 AM12/8/10
to harm...@googlegroups.com
You posted the article, I was just responding to your post. Nothing
personal, just asking a valid question on the posting...

Todd Smith

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Dec 8, 2010, 9:13:22 AM12/8/10
to harm...@googlegroups.com
Heck, they could save a boat load of money if they close the BVL station. That may perk up Commissioner Quinones perhaps. There 7-9 guys per shift there which means 21-27 layoffs, and a sweet boat load of cash saved. Lives would be lost sure due to the increase in response times, but the commission seems to be focused on saving cash and that is the biggest station, perhaps next to Celebration. The Celebration station (in Harfords district) even has the Tower truck which maintenance on that is tremendous. We could have Kissimmee FD cover BVL and Reedy Creek FD cover Celebration and our problems would be solved. And they would still have better response times than Harmony and Pine Grove.

I would just hope you don't live in those areas.

On Wed, Dec 8, 2010 at 7:00 AM, Jim Warren (Home) <jm.w...@btinternet.com> wrote:
You posted the article, I was just responding to your post. Nothing
personal, just asking a valid question on the posting...



Geo

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Dec 10, 2010, 6:11:31 PM12/10/10
to HarmonyFL
Fred, we know that you have suggested a few times that folks can email
you directly. But as we have discussed on the phone, such private
communications (like phone calls) don't serve to benefit the community
as a whole.

I have no doubt that you have answered some of the same questions over
and over again by phone and by email Fred. I am also sure that you
will come to realize that not only can everyone else benefit from
seeing your responses to other people's questions, but you yourself
can also benefit by saving the time not having to answer the same
questions repeatedly to several individuals.

Here are the currently open questions again Fred:

FHQ) Based on the fact that the Harmony fire station
has been fully funded for this year (according to Mr.
Seithel), what is the earliest date that it would be
closed, assuming that nothing changes in the
negotiations between the firefighter's union and the
county commission? Fred, please bear in mind that we
are trying to understand how urgent this matter really
is. If the fire station can possibly be closed next
week, for example, we need to know right away.

FHQ) To your understanding is Mr. Seithel's statement
accurate? (about the Harmony fire station being fully
funded for this year) If not, why not?

FHQ) What is it exactly (if anything) that the County
has asked the Union to forgo in lieu of furloughs?

FHQ) Is it the County's position that if negotiations
don't work that a fire station, somewhere in the
county, will be closed? Or is it that if negotiations
don't work that the fire station in Harmony will be the
one that is closed?

Please do your best to answer these questions with the understanding
that transparency and accountability is an ongoing process. People
will likely have more questions over time. I am sure that folks will
understand if they have to wait a little while for answers so that you
can respond to several questions in one sitting (as we hope you will
do now).

I am sure that I speak for many of the folks reading this when I say
that your cooperation in communicating with us this way on such an
important topic is greatly appreciated Fred. Please don't forget that.
We won't.


On Dec 7, 6:36 pm, Fred Hawkins Jr. <f...@OSCEOLA.ORG> wrote:
> There has been agreement on a station closing. If I was to guess I think Pine Grove would be looked at first. That one has always been the topic of discussion. There has been talk of combining Pine Grove and Harmony on Old Melbourne Hwy. As for the firings last night in was nothing but personal for those that voted for it. Not sure if the story written stated that in their contract the 2 that were fired now get 300k in severence. So where is the cost savings. As yo can tell I did not vote for it. As for being forthcoming I did have a mistake in addressing the blog and it was my own fault. But if anyone wants to speak to me about anything my email and phone number is out there. The information I have supplied is all I currently have. God Bless
>
>
>
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: harm...@googlegroups.com <harm...@googlegroups.com>
> To: HarmonyFL <harm...@googlegroups.com>
> Sent: Tue Dec 07 18:25:20 2010
> Subject: [HarmonyFL:841] Re: Saving Harmony's Fire Station
>
> Ms. Rivera-Lyles posted this story on the Sentinel's website last
> night:
>
> Osceola commission fires county attorney, auditorhttp://tinyurl.com/27asbop
>
> Since this commission vote appears to be a cost savings measure,
> perhaps the money saved will have some bearing on the decision to
> possibly close Harmony's fire station (or the Pine Grove fire
> station).
>
> Here's another article written by Ms. Rivera-Lyles last year:
>
> Osceola struggles with costs of fire serviceshttp://tinyurl.com/2blns5h

Fred Hawkins Jr.

unread,
Dec 10, 2010, 7:14:08 PM12/10/10
to harm...@googlegroups.com, HarmonyFL
Thank you for the opportunity to address the questions. I would believe that sometime around the first of the year the management of the county will begin to address the BOCC as to the failure of negotiations. I think the BOCC will then direct staff as to a deadline date for adjusting the fire budget and ask for suggestions to make up for the deficit. The statement made by Adam has merit but is not accurate. Everyone that watched the budget hearings knew that the cut to the budget would have to be addressed. A budget is a constant moving and living document that changes based on income revenues or the lack of. When someone states something is fully funded in government, that is based on projected revenues that have to come in as taxes are paid. That said all stations were funded based on a feeling the union would cooperate with benefit reductions in some manner equal to what other county employees have taken. In lieu of furloughs the county has only looked to the union to forgo some of the generous benefits they currently have. This is no different that what everyone in business is asking or has asked employees to do in both private and public sectors. I can only speak for myself and not my fellow commissioners, yes I feel the county management will look to the BOCC to close "a station or stations" to make up for the lack of an agreement. What station or stations that I am not sure of, but would guess Pine Grove, Harmony would be mentioned. I did think Todd Smith had some great thoughts and research that could actually have a larger impact in his blog. Great thinking Todd!
I hope I have addressed the questions and look forward to further discussion.

Fred Hawkins, Jr.
Osceola County Commission
District 5

Geo

unread,
Dec 11, 2010, 11:15:39 AM12/11/10
to harm...@googlegroups.com
Thank you for this information Fred. For the sake of clarity, I will
reformat and reiterate your responses so that they are easier to reference
later. I hope you are OK with this approach.

Here are the questions again with Fred's answers interspersed.

Question:

FHQ) Based on the fact that the Harmony fire station
has been fully funded for this year (according to Mr.
Seithel), what is the earliest date that it would be
closed, assuming that nothing changes in the
negotiations between the firefighter's union and the
county commission? Fred, please bear in mind that we
are trying to understand how urgent this matter really
is. If the fire station can possibly be closed next
week, for example, we need to know right away.

Fred Hawkins:

I would believe that sometime around the first of the
year the management of the county will begin to address
the BOCC as to the failure of negotiations. I think
the BOCC will then direct staff as to a deadline date
for adjusting the fire budget and ask for suggestions
to make up for the deficit.

From Fred's answer I would conclude that the Harmony fire station will not
be closed earlier than 1/1/2011. In all likelihood, if it is closed, this
would happen maybe a few weeks thereafter. A specific "no earlier than" date
would have been more helpful Fred, but this is better than what we had.
Thank you.

So to all Harmony residents: I think we need to do whatever it is that needs
to get done to save our fire station before the new year. Please take this
very seriously folks.

Question:

FHQ) To your understanding is Mr. Seithel's statement
accurate? (about the Harmony fire station being fully
funded for this year) If not, why not?

Fred Hawkins:

The statement made by Adam has merit but is not
accurate. Everyone that watched the budget hearings
knew that the cut to the budget would have to be
addressed. A budget is a constant moving and living
document that changes based on income revenues or the
lack of. When someone states something is fully funded
in government, that is based on projected revenues that
have to come in as taxes are paid. That said all
stations were funded based on a feeling the union would
cooperate with benefit reductions in some manner equal
to what other county employees have taken.

Question:

FHQ) What is it exactly (if anything) that the County
has asked the Union to forgo in lieu of furloughs?

Fred Hawkins:

In lieu of furloughs the county has only looked to the
union to forgo some of the generous benefits they
currently have. This is no different that what
everyone in business is asking or has asked employees
to do in both private and public sectors.

Question:

FHQ) Is it the County's position that if negotiations
don't work that a fire station, somewhere in the
county, will be closed? Or is it that if negotiations
don't work that the fire station in Harmony will be the
one that is closed?

Fred Hawkins:

I can only speak for myself and not my fellow
commissioners, yes I feel the county management will
look to the BOCC to close "a station or stations" to
make up for the lack of an agreement. What station or
stations that I am not sure of, but would guess Pine
Grove, Harmony would be mentioned.

All open questions to date for Fred Hawkins and Adam Seithel have now been
answered.

Thank you again Commissioner Hawkins and Mr. Seithel. Your willingness to be
openly responsive this way is refreshing and greatly appreciated.

I am sure that new questions will arise soon. Can you say Fred at what
frequency you feel most comfortable responding this way to questions from
your constituents? Every few days? Once a week perhaps? Monthly?


-----Original Message-----
From: harm...@googlegroups.com [mailto:harm...@googlegroups.com]On

Geo

unread,
Dec 14, 2010, 6:49:54 PM12/14/10
to harm...@googlegroups.com
I will try to keep the ball rolling with a few more direct questions since
time seems to be running out.

As stated previously, questions specifically for Fred Hawkins will be


prefixed like this "FHQ)". Questions specifically for Adam Seithel will be
prefixed like this "ASQ)". Of course, anyone is free to contribute to any
question they feel qualified to answer.

In my efforts to better understand this situation, I find it helpful to draw
comparisons between related things. I hope we can all agree that it is
reasonable to compare the Osceola police force to the Osceola firefighters.

FHQ) What is the current budget shortfall that makes you believe closing at
least one fire station may be necessary Fred? I have seen the number
$600,000 mentioned a few times as the budget shortfall. What is the exact
figure?

ASQ) I moved to the area in 2004. I would like to know the dollar value of
the firefighter union contracts for each year since 2003 so that we can see
the changes over time. From 2003 to 2010 would be 8 contracts, assuming that
each contract duration was 1 year. If some contracts were for more than 1
year, please list each contract starting date and duration along with the
dollar amount. It might be helpful to know how many firefighters are
represented by each contract as well.

FHQ) Would it be hard to get similar information about the dollars spent
over the same period of time on police services Fred?

FHQ) What is the dollar figure for any budget savings already contributed by
the Osceola police force this year?

Thank you both again for your ongoing contributions to help the public
better understand this important issue.

Geo

unread,
Dec 22, 2010, 12:17:59 PM12/22/10
to HarmonyFL
I had a nice meeting with Fred Hawkins yesterday. Thank you Fred.

Last week I was told by Nancy, Fred's secretary, that he wouldn't be
available for a meeting until the middle of January (ie. after the
fire station issue might come before the commission). Upon hearing my
sincere disappointment, Nancy was kind enough to fit me into Fred's
busy schedule. I was very concerned since several recent phone calls
and emails to Fred have gone unanswered.

Fred was very cordial. I asked him why he seemed not to be responding
to the ongoing questions about Harmony's fire station. He indicated
that he was still gathering information to answer the most recent
questions directed at him, in particular the questions about police
expenditures and concessions, etc.

Fred told me that he would no longer leave us up-in-the-air like this.
Fred said that in the future if he doesn't have an immediate answer to
one or more of our questions, he will post something to the effect "I
am working on it and I will get back to you by ..." (a specific date).
This way we will know that Fred got the message and he is actively
engaged on our behalf.

Fred and I also took the opportunity to discuss the sad decline of
integrity in our society today and the related declining sense of
honor and trust. I am sure that we can all agree that this trend must
somehow be reversed before we completely lose touch with our core
values.

I think that I got to know Fred Hawkins a little better. I left the
meeting feeling that, unlike many other public officials, Fred is a
man of down-to-earth common sense whose word really means something.

Geo

unread,
Jan 9, 2011, 9:53:19 AM1/9/11
to HarmonyFL
Now that we are past the holidays, I asked Fred Hawkins if and when he
will be answering the latest questions posted here. Fred indicated
that he did respond already last week. Apparently Fred is still having
technical difficulties. Hopefully he will be reposting his response
soon.

I also left at least one voice message for Adam Seithel, to no avail.
I sent him an email this morning to try eliciting why he has
apparently decided to stop responding on this critically important
issue to Harmony residents. Hopefully Mr. Seithel will see fit to
continue this dialog with us. Perhaps he has been discouraged by the
sudden silence of other Harmony residents on this topic. That is
certainly understandable but a serious mistake, IMHO.

I can't help but wonder who will be held accountable if the Harmony
fire station is closed.

Geo

unread,
Jan 9, 2011, 3:01:25 PM1/9/11
to HarmonyFL
There is a very interesting article in the Orlando Sentinel today. It
may be relevant to this discussion:

"Public employees' pension plan scams taxpayers"
http://tinyurl.com/27q9xns

Here are some facts from Mike Thomas's article that may be important
in this context:

Cops, firefighters and correctional workers got their
accrual rate bumped to 3 percent, so they could retire
after 25 years with 75 percent of their salaries.

...

The reason is simple. Public safety unions are very
organized and scream very loudly, particularly the
firefighters. They have lots of time on their hands to
work on campaigns, making them a very potent political
force.

Naturally these facts lead to a few more questions for Adam Seithel.

ASQ) How does the Osceola Firefighters pension plan compare to the
pension plans described in Mike Thomas's article?

ASQ) Is it possible that some of this pension largess can be deferred
or cutback so that the Harmony Fire Station can remain open?

ASQ) If firefighters are really spending their time on political
activities like those described in the article, are the firefighters
being paid for this time as part of their regular compensation?

Todd Smith

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Jan 9, 2011, 5:52:59 PM1/9/11
to harm...@googlegroups.com
 I resent the fact that everyone blames the unions, because the 3% multiplier is for "high risk" positions, including police, corrections, and firefighters. Nonunion, high risk areas of the work force, also receive similar benefits. You know, there was a time that public service was paid less and the benefits were less, however we did get a few perks above the general population, because we unselfishly "served" you, the general public. However, recently, we are attacked because we get a couple extra perks for risking our lives to save yours.

Remember that our beloved part time employees, the county commissioners, get a state pension after 8 years, while it takes firefighters 25 years. No one is up in arms about that. They serve the public, and they are rewarded for their service. This, as well, is dictated by law.

I can answer the questions below for Adam as I know how busy he is:

1)How does the Osceola Firefighters pension plan compare to the

pension plans described in Mike Thomas's article?

We are under the state FRS plan, so our pensions are covered by state law. We are "high risk" and get a 3% multiplier, which if someone works hard they get 75% of their average salary. However, that is only one option in the FRS plan. There are actually 4 options, all with different stipulations and percentages. One of the options provides 60% I believe.  Just like every county employee, the county contributes a percentage to state for those pensions. Again, this is state law and any county in the state that is under FRS has the same plans. Some cities and municipalities have different contribution rates (175 plans) and vary as these tend to negotiated over by the unions and management directly.

2)Is it possible that some of this pension largess can be deferred

or cutback so that the Harmony Fire Station can remain open?

Most likely no. The pension surplus is at the state level, not county level and the contribution amount is dictated by state law for all employees under FRS.

3)If firefighters are really spending their time on political

activities like those described in the article, are the firefighters
being paid for this time as part of their regular compensation?


I cannot speak for other unions and state lobbyists (for the state union), but Osceola County does not pay any union official for working on campaigns or political activities. Its actually in our contract that we cannot do political activities while on duty, so that is left for off duty time.

I hope that helps.

Todd

Geo

unread,
Jan 11, 2011, 4:40:32 AM1/11/11
to HarmonyFL
Todd, thank you for this valuable feedback offered on behalf of Adam
Seithel. If you don't mind, I will reformat your answers so that
future research on this topic may be easier.

Before I reformat your answers, could you please give us some
background on yourself? As you know, I invited Mr. Seithel to join
this group in his official capacity as President of the Osceola County
Professional Firefighters Local 3284.

I need you to do two things for us:

1) Let us know who you are and who you represent;

2) Ask Mr. Seithel to please post a short statement
expressing that he is OK with you responding to
questions on his behalf.

Thank you for your cooperation with this.


On Jan 9, 5:52 pm, Todd Smith <fyr...@gmail.com> wrote:
>  I resent the fact that everyone blames the unions, because the 3%
> multiplier is for "high risk" positions, including police, corrections, and
> firefighters. Nonunion, high risk areas of the work force, also receive
> similar benefits. You know, there was a time that public service was paid
> less and the benefits were less, however we did get a few perks above the
> general population, because we unselfishly "served" you, the general public.
> However, recently, we are attacked because we get a couple extra perks for
> risking our lives to save yours.
>
> Remember that our beloved part time employees, the county commissioners, get
> a state pension after 8 years, while it takes firefighters 25 years. No one
> is up in arms about that. They serve the public, and they are rewarded for
> their service. This, as well, is dictated by law.
>
> I can answer the questions below for Adam as I know how busy he is:
>
> 1)*How does the Osceola Firefighters pension plan compare to the
> pension plans described in Mike Thomas's article?
>
> *We are under the state FRS plan, so our pensions are covered by state law.
> We are "high risk" and get a 3% multiplier, which if someone works hard they
> get 75% of their average salary. However, that is only one option in the FRS
> plan. There are actually 4 options, all with different stipulations and
> percentages. One of the options provides 60% I believe.  Just like every
> county employee, the county contributes a percentage to state for those
> pensions. Again, this is state law and any county in the state that is under
> FRS has the same plans. Some cities and municipalities have different
> contribution rates (175 plans) and vary as these tend to negotiated over by
> the unions and management directly.
>
> 2*)Is it possible that some of this pension largess can be deferred
> or cutback so that the Harmony Fire Station can remain open?
>
> *Most likely no. The pension surplus is at the state level, not county level
> and the contribution amount is dictated by state law for all employees under
> FRS.
>
> 3*)If firefighters are really spending their time on political
> activities like those described in the article, are the firefighters
> being paid for this time as part of their regular compensation?*
> ...
>
> read more »

Geo

unread,
Jan 11, 2011, 5:28:30 AM1/11/11
to HarmonyFL
Here is Fred's response posted on a new thread:

"FW: Questions that were asked"
http://tinyurl.com/4sym4jz

Thank you Fred. I will reformat and repost your answers here.

Question:

FHQ) What is the current budget shortfall that makes
you believe closing at least one fire station may be
necessary Fred? I have seen the number $600,000
mentioned a few times as the budget shortfall. What is
the exact figure?

Fred Hawkins:

As for the number that the BOCC requested be reduced to
the Fire Budget it is $655 thousand. The average cost
that the BOCC has been told to operate a station such
as Pine Grove is $750 thousand.

Question:

FHQ) Would it be hard to get similar information about
the dollars spent over the same period of time on
police services Fred?

Note: This question was asked in the context of the
following question submitted to Adam Seithel:

"I moved to the area in 2004. I would like to know the
dollar value of the firefighter union contracts for
each year since 2003 so that we can see the changes
over time. From 2003 to 2010 would be 8 contracts,
assuming that each contract duration was 1 year. If
some contracts were for more than 1 year, please list
each contract starting date and duration along with the
dollar amount. It might be helpful to know how many
firefighters are represented by each contract as well."

Fred Hawkins:

A little history going back to last year, (2009) the
Sheriff inherited 14 resource officers that in the past
had been funded by the school board due to these
officer working in the schools. At that time, the
school board decided to make cuts and not fund these
positions. Instead of laying off these 14 positions
they were either moved to other positions or kept in
the certain schools and funded from the sheriff's
budget. Additionally the Sheriff absorbed a 11%
increase in health benefits to his people and did not
pass the increase on to his employees. In so doing all
of this he decreased his budget by over $2 million
dollars.

This year there was an increase to the sheriff's budget
of about $1.2 million. This was not due to any
increase in pay for anyone nor for any new equipment
but to cover the increase in pensions that had to be
paid into the system. This is why pension reform is
going to be addressed at the state level because of the
impact it has on the budgets of local and state
governments. It should be noted that there have been
no pay increases for the past 2 years to any officers.

Here is the one remaining open question again Fred:

FHQ) What is the dollar figure for any budget savings
already contributed by the Osceola police force this
year?

Based on your answers to the other questions Fred, I hope that you
would agree that the above question should be reworded. Perhaps it
would make more sense to take into account budget changes over
multiple years. Here is a new question to replace the question above
with what I think makes sense as an answer that you have already
provided.

Question:

FHQ) What is the dollar figure for any budget savings
already contributed by the Osceola police force over
the past few years?

Fred Hawkins:

From 2009 to present the budget savings contributed by
the sheriff's department is $2 million - $1.2 million
which equals a savings of $800,000 (since 2009).

Please let us know if you do not agree that extrapolating this latest
answer from your previous answers is correct Fred.

Assuming that Fred is OK with the answer above, all open questions to
date for Fred Hawkins have now been answered. Thank you again Fred!

Here is the earliest open question again for Adam Seithel:

ASQ) I moved to the area in 2004. I would like to know
the dollar value of the firefighter union contracts for
each year since 2003 so that we can see the changes
over time. From 2003 to 2010 would be 8 contracts,
assuming that each contract duration was 1 year. If
some contracts were for more than 1 year, please list
each contract starting date and duration along with the
dollar amount. It might be helpful to know how many
firefighters are represented by each contract as well.

There are 3 newer questions for Adam Seithel that have been answered
by Todd Smith. I will add them to the list of answered questions after
hearing again from Todd and Mr. Seithel.


On Dec 14 2010, 6:49 pm, "Geo" <IIDIMGRLA...@spammotel.com> wrote:

Geo

unread,
Jan 15, 2011, 9:05:27 AM1/15/11
to harm...@googlegroups.com
It would appear that either Adam Seithel is not OK with Todd Smith speaking
on his behalf or perhaps Mr. Seithel has been advised by his attorney not to
communicate openly with the public anymore on this topic. The latter is
purely speculation on my part, but I am sure that many reading this will
agree that such legal advice would not be uncommon.

Todd, it is my understanding that you are the former president of the same
union that Mr. Seithel now represents. If that is true, then your feedback
is more than idle gossip and should be accorded a much higher level of
credibility than the opinions of an arbitrary participant in this
discussion. That said, we really need Mr. Seithel or his designated
representative to speak openly on behalf of the current firefighter's union
so that Harmony residents can feel that we know what the firefighters are
really thinking and doing. I hope you understand that I write this with no
disrespect intended.

Hopefully we all understand that while Fred Hawkins is indeed accountable
primarily to the residents of Harmony (among others), Adam Seithel is
accountable primarily to the firefighters' union. Mr. Seithel was elected to
his current position by firefighters, not by average citizens of Osceola
county. This means that Mr. Seithel must do what he thinks is best for
Osceola firefighters, not necessarily what's best for Harmony residents or
Osceola citizens at large.

Early on in this discussion is appeared that Adam Seithel was being more
responsive than Fred Hawkins. But since then it has become clear that
Commissioner Hawkins is now being much more forthcoming with answers. That
is good for us, but really too bad for the sake of transparency. I was
hoping that with both sides of this issue having reasonable positions, both
sides would also continue this dialog in good faith.

Here are the open questions for Adam Seithel once again:

ASQ) I moved to the area in 2004. I would like to know
the dollar value of the firefighter union contracts for
each year since 2003 so that we can see the changes
over time. From 2003 to 2010 would be 8 contracts,
assuming that each contract duration was 1 year. If
some contracts were for more than 1 year, please list
each contract starting date and duration along with the
dollar amount. It might be helpful to know how many
firefighters are represented by each contract as well.

ASQ) How does the Osceola Firefighters pension plan


compare to the pension plans described in Mike Thomas's
article?

ASQ) Is it possible that some of this pension largess
can be deferred or cutback so that the Harmony Fire
Station can remain open?

ASQ) If firefighters are really spending their time on
political activities like those described in the
article, are the firefighters being paid for this time
as part of their regular compensation?

From Fred's most recent answers, it looks like the police force of Osceola
county has done much to save police jobs while also saving taxpayers
$800,000 over the past few years. As far as we can tell from the feedback
offered by Mr. Seithel, during the same period of time the firefighters have
done nothing to save firefighter jobs or taxpayer money.

If this assessment is in error, please feel free to correct me Mr. Seithel.

> read more �

Adam Seithel

unread,
Jan 15, 2011, 10:24:00 AM1/15/11
to HarmonyFL
Well apparently while I was gone out of town Todd Smith has replied to
some questions posted and I agree with all the responses and would
like to add some comments.

While there are several areas of question the facts remain the same no
matter the outcome of the budget, no matter the outcome of furlough’s,
the Harmony Fire Station is at the top of the list for cuts. Over the
years many developers and Commissioners have made deals during the
development of communities including Harmony in which the developer
provided land and/or the construction of a fire station in the
community. While this sounds like an attractive deal the County has to
fund the manpower and station for its tenure. As a result of these
deals, fire stations may have not been correctly spaced in relation to
call volume or efficiency. Instead they were placed for convenience
and as a selling point.

So as it was last year with Pine Grove Fire Station, it happens this
year with the Harmony Fire station...the threat of a station closure.
I did some research and met with the other four commissioners over the
past two weeks, and they all deny having any knowledge of, or support
for that matter of, closing a fire station. Certainly raises some
questions.

The Harmony Station as the Pine Grove Station was is at the top of the
list of cuts, as these stations, on average, run less than one call
per day. So our elected officials are making the decision on a “call
load basis” and this could mean the difference in life or death should
this station close. So you the residents, albeit the fact you pay the
same taxes, don’t use the service and are therefore punished with a
reduction in live saving services and an increase in homeowners
insurance fees. This could result in catastrophic outcomes.

The firefighters and this Union are committed to working with the
County in these tough times and have offered more than one suggestion
to assist in solving these problems. We are awaiting another meeting
while the County deliberates as to where we go from here. We will
entertain all meaningful and fair proposals and look forward to the
time when we meet to wrap this up.

As for the Police who are included in Public Safety, while they may
have made a reduction in the past few years while raising their budget
they are not included in Furloughs, dropped out of the County's
Healthcare Plan which shifted a greater burden on the employees to
save money, and our not included in the many cuts in service,budget,
nor lay offs we have already performed in Fire Rescue. So as I dont
blame the Police for not taking these cuts given to the other County
employees becuase he would like retention of his employees, but please
dont defend the fact we have done nothing when you really have done no
research to make the comment.

As for the extensive information you have requested for 8 years of
past history, I have been in office since March and I need to focus my
time and effort to moving forwarded and protecting the level of
service we currenlty provided while all the fact that may not matter
when the smoke clears for Harmony. Im sure Commissioner Hawkins has
contacts or it can be provided through public information requests
through the PIO's office if you so wish.

This should clear up where we are today and the questions asked of me.

Adam
> On Jan 9, 5:52�pm, Todd Smith <fyr...@gmail.com> wrote:
> > �I resent the fact that everyone blames the unions, because the 3%
> > percentages. One of the options provides 60% I believe. �Just like every
> > > � �Cops, firefighters and correctional workers got their
> > > � �accrual rate bumped to 3 percent, so they could retire
> > > � �after 25 years with 75 percent of their salaries.
>
> > > � �...
>
> > > � �The reason is simple. Public safety unions are very
> > > � �organized and scream very loudly, particularly the
> > > � �firefighters. They have lots of time on their hands to
> > > � �work on campaigns, making them a very potent political
> > > � �force.
> to- Hide quoted text -
>
> - Show quoted text -...
>
> read more »

Geo

unread,
Jan 15, 2011, 11:10:20 AM1/15/11
to harm...@googlegroups.com
Thank you Mr. Seithel for your quick response and for helping to keep this
dialog going (May I call you Adam?) I will reformat Todd's answers as your
own soon. Your lengthy narrative also goes a long way to helping us better
understand your position and the situation on the ground here.

Mr. Seithel wrote:

please dont defend the fact we have done nothing when
you really have done no research to make the comment

I acknowledge that my only sources of information on this topic are you and
Fred Hawkins. Please understand that like you, I must work for a living to
support my family. This is not my job. Trying to hold Starwood / Harmony
Development Company accountable as well as various public officials in and
around Harmony is something that I do in my free time, which is in very
short supply these days. By the same token, I know that any time that you
spend being openly responsive to me and other citizens this way is often
done during your off-hours. We understand this and we appreciate it.

I have very little time to do research on this issue Mr. Seithel, that's why
I have asked you and Fred to help us with this public information. I am sure
that you can understand this. You and Fred are the experts on this topic,
not me or my fellow Harmony residents.

When the people I work for need meaningful feedback about some highly
technical computer related issue, they come to me as the expert. Instead of
potentially expending hours, days or weeks researching an issue, they come
to me to give them quick answers about the details that they know I have at
my disposal. They don't expect me to respond "Go figure it out for
yourselves." What may take me a little time to accomplish may take someone
else a very long time to do the same thing. This is why people ask questions
of experts in a field: to save time and get reliable answers.

Unless I am mistaken Mr. Seithel your paycheck comes from me and my fellow
taxpayers. This means that you work for us. Of course you have priorities,
but so do we all. Please respond as best you can, when you can. If it takes
awhile, then just say how long it will take. If you simply refuse for
whatever reason to provide the information that I requested, then simply
respond that way. If that was indeed your intended response already, then
please reiterate it.

Adam

> On Jan 9, 5:52�pm, Todd Smith <fyr...@gmail.com> wrote:
> > �I resent the fact that everyone blames the unions, because the 3%

> > percentages. One of the options provides 60% I believe. �Just like

> > > � �Cops, firefighters and correctional workers got their
> > > � �accrual rate bumped to 3 percent, so they could retire
> > > � �after 25 years with 75 percent of their salaries.
>
> > > � �...
>
> > > � �The reason is simple. Public safety unions are very
> > > � �organized and scream very loudly, particularly the
> > > � �firefighters. They have lots of time on their hands to
> > > � �work on campaigns, making them a very potent political
> > > � �force.

> read more �

Adam Seithel

unread,
Jan 15, 2011, 12:34:15 PM1/15/11
to HarmonyFL
Geo,

I have no issue with you calling me Adam.

But I respectful disagree with your position and comments at me

"Unless I am mistaken Mr. Seithel your paycheck comes from me and my
fellow
taxpayers. This means that you work for us."

First Im not elected by you, Im not paid by you, or even the County
for that fact. I do this on my free time and yes I do this around my
job and my family. But any day Im working as a Lieutenant at the Fire
Station and you would like to see what you pay for I will be more than
willing to open our doors for you to see. I have County residents,
vistors, and firefighters on the top of my list as needs to meet. But
I recent the fact that the Fire Station in Harmony and the Fire
Station in Pine Grove were not decided by this Union, or the fire
fighters hired for these stations, but it was decided by our elected
officals and since that we have to be faced with these consistant
attacks to keep you safe.

Your firefighters risk their lives everyday to keep you, my family,
and the residents and visitors safe in this County. All the while we
are not 8-5 employees, we work 24hrs shifts and provide you with the
absolute best service we can provide. This is consistantly taken for
granted as the turn in the econonmy has shifted this too attacks at
me,my profession, and the level of service you expected our elected
officals to provide you with no worries.

I sat yesturday through a Commissioner Retreat, only to find out that
we a non funded financial liablity of approx 30 MILLION dollars for
outstanding litigations on a Right of Way project in District 5. This
is money we do not have and is probably the stem of the firings of the
two recent County employees which we will have to pay in upwards of
700,000 severancy packages in less than 45 days. So I pray for our
County and our elected officals as we move forwarded because Im not
sure we are going to be able to keep any level of service or what that
service will be.
> matter the outcome of the budget, no matter the outcome of furlough�s,
> the Harmony Fire Station is at the top of the list for cuts. Over the
> years many developers and Commissioners have made deals during the
> development of communities including Harmony in which  the developer
> provided land and/or the construction of a fire station in the
> community. While this sounds like an attractive deal the County has to
> fund the manpower and station for its tenure. As a result of these
> deals, fire stations may have not been correctly spaced in relation to
> call volume or efficiency. Instead they were placed for convenience
> and as a selling point.
>
> So as it was last year with Pine Grove Fire Station, it happens this
> year with the Harmony Fire station...the  threat of a station closure.
> I did some research and met with the other four commissioners over the
> past two weeks, and they all deny having any knowledge of, or support
> for that matter of, closing a fire station. Certainly raises some
> questions.
>
> The Harmony Station as the Pine Grove Station was is at the top of the
> list of cuts, as these stations, on average, run less than one call
> per day. So our elected officials are making the decision on a �call
> load basis� and this could mean the difference in life or death should
> this station close. So you the residents, albeit the fact you pay the
> same taxes, don�t use the service and are therefore punished with a
> > � � ASQ) I moved to the area in 2004. I would like to know
> > � � the dollar value of the firefighter union contracts for
> > � � each year since 2003 so that we can see the changes
> > � � over time. From 2003 to 2010 would be 8 contracts,
> > � � assuming that each contract duration was 1 year. If
> > � � some contracts were for more than 1 year, please list
> > � � each contract starting date and duration along with the
> > � � dollar amount. It might be helpful to know how many
> > � � firefighters are represented by each contract as well.
>
> > � � ASQ) How does the Osceola Firefighters pension plan
> > � � compare to the pension plans described in Mike Thomas's
> > � � article?
>
> > � � ASQ) Is it possible that some of this pension largess
> > � � can be deferred or cutback so that the Harmony Fire
> > � � Station can remain open?
>
> > � � ASQ) If firefighters are really spending their time on
> > � � political activities like those described in the
> > � � article, are the firefighters being paid for this time
> > � � as part of their regular compensation?
>
> > From Fred's most recent answers, it looks like the police force of Osceola
> > county has done much to save police jobs while also saving taxpayers
> > $800,000 over the past few years. As far as we can tell from the feedback
> > offered by Mr. Seithel, during the same period of time the firefighters
> have
> > done nothing to save firefighter jobs or taxpayer money.
>
> > If this assessment is in error, please feel free to correct me Mr.
> Seithel.
>
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: harm...@googlegroups.com [mailto:harm...@googlegroups.com]On
>
> > Behalf Of Geo
> > Sent: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 4:41 AM
> > To: HarmonyFL
> > Subject: [HarmonyFL:876] Re: Saving Harmony's Fire Station
>
> > Todd, thank you for this valuable feedback offered on behalf of Adam
> > Seithel. If you don't mind, I will reformat your- Hide quoted text -
>
> - Show quoted text -...
>
> read more »

Geo

unread,
Jan 16, 2011, 9:35:53 PM1/16/11
to HarmonyFL
Here are Todd Smith's answers submitted on Adam Seithel's behalf:

Question:

ASQ) How does the Osceola Firefighters pension plan
compare to the pension plans described in Mike Thomas's
article?

Adam Seithel:

We are under the state FRS plan, so our pensions are
covered by state law. We are "high risk" and get a 3%
multiplier, which if someone works hard they get 75% of
their average salary. However, that is only one option
in the FRS plan. There are actually 4 options, all with
different stipulations and percentages. One of the
options provides 60% I believe. Just like every county
employee, the county contributes a percentage to state
for those pensions. Again, this is state law and any
county in the state that is under FRS has the same
plans. Some cities and municipalities have different
contribution rates (175 plans) and vary as these tend
to negotiated over by the unions and management
directly.

Question:

ASQ) Is it possible that some of this pension largess
can be deferred or cutback so that the Harmony Fire
Station can remain open?

Adam Seithel:

Most likely no. The pension surplus is at the state
level, not county level and the contribution amount is
dictated by state law for all employees under FRS.

Question:

ASQ) If firefighters are really spending their time on
political activities like those described in the
article, are the firefighters being paid for this time
as part of their regular compensation?

Adam Seithel:

I cannot speak for other unions and state lobbyists
(for the state union), but Osceola County does not pay
any union official for working on campaigns or
political activities. Its actually in our contract that
we cannot do political activities while on duty, so
that is left for off duty time.


Thank you again Adam and Todd for this feedback.


On Jan 15, 11:10 am, "Geo" <IIDIMGRLA...@spammotel.com> wrote:

Geo

unread,
Jan 16, 2011, 10:18:23 PM1/16/11
to HarmonyFL
Here is the one question again that remains open Adam:

ASQ) I moved to the area in 2004. I would like to know
the dollar value of the firefighter union contracts for
each year since 2003 so that we can see the changes
over time. From 2003 to 2010 would be 8 contracts,
assuming that each contract duration was 1 year. If
some contracts were for more than 1 year, please list
each contract starting date and duration along with the
dollar amount. It might be helpful to know how many
firefighters are represented by each contract as well.

I didn't know that the firefighters' union president is an
uncompensated position. But that is not what I was referring to. I
meant that you earn some of your compensation as a firefighter from
tax dollars paid by Harmony residents. I think that gives us a right
to ask you a few questions and expect meaningful answers, which you
and Todd have mostly already provided. Thank you. Thank you also for
your insights about the developer's use of the Harmony fire station as
marketing tool. This is something that some Harmony residents already
knew, but it is good to have multiple sources that confirm this. I
agree that this is an important part of the current problem.

I also know that the open question involves much more research than
the other questions already answered Adam, but hopefully you can find
some way to respond anyway without having to spend too much time on
it.

So here's the real point of the question:

ASQ) How has the firefighters' compensation changed over the past few
years? Has it always gone up year after year or are there any examples
of firefighters' compensation going down over the past few years?
> > > Early on in this discussion is appeared that Adam...
>
> read more »

Geo

unread,
Feb 4, 2011, 6:43:10 PM2/4/11
to HarmonyFL
Well it looks like we are at another standstill on this topic.

This thread was started soon after Fred Hawkins wrote this on Nov 20th
of last year:

If you recall they [the Fire Fighter union] have
refused to give up holiday pay to balance the budget.
Additionally nothing the county has offered included
laying off a fire fighter or closing a station. If an
agreement is not reached there will be at least one
closure of a station and the lost of 15-20 fire fighter
jobs.

All of the discussion to date has culminated in essentially one
question for Adam Seithel which he seems reluctant to answer:

ASQ) How has the firefighters' compensation changed
over the past few years? Has it always gone up year
after year or are there any examples of firefighters'
compensation going down over the past few years?

Adam is the current president of the Firefighters Union and Todd is
its former president. I would think that both of these gentlemen would
be in a position to know if the firefighters have actually given up
any compensation over the past few years to help us through this
financial crisis.

It seems to me that the question is salient and I have no doubt that
Adam and Todd know the answer. This is especially true if the
firefighters have actually had any increases in their compensation
since 2003.

Adam and Todd, you have both been forthcoming before. Why are you not
being forthcoming now? Is my question somehow unfair?
> > > time and effort to...
>
> read more »

Todd Smith

unread,
Feb 5, 2011, 8:26:05 AM2/5/11
to harm...@googlegroups.com
Geo,
 
I am responding as I am better suited to answer past questions regarding the contracts were negotiated.
 
Regarding the cost of the Union contracts since 2003, that is a monumental task, one I suggest you get from OMB and/or Chief Larry Collier. In doing such you may get a better appreciation of the amount of work and time it takes to develop and manage our contracts. The contracts cover salaries, vacation accrual, sick accruals, paramedic pay, overtime, annual physicals...etc. On top of that, other benefits such as workers compensation, FRS benefits, and other costs are not directly in the contract, but are reliant on things such as pay, and are factored into these numbers (as these costs are percentage of things such as pay).
 
Regarding the compensation of firefighters since 2003 and how have they increased, I can tell you that the salaries of firefighters have only increased in the same amount as other county employees. Going back to the above statement about reading our contracts, you would see that we get cost of living increases in the same amount as other county employees (Article 23 for quick reference). To that note, we actually get less of an increase than other county employees as the County merit system allows for an increase of up to 5% whereas union firefighters can only get a 3.5% increase.
 
As well, last year, there were no raises given to county emplyees, except for a handful of upper management employees(they will tell you for taking on additional tasks) and even though the contract stated we were to receive merit raises, we elected to follow suit with the other county employees.
 
So to date, we have not received any percentage increases higher than any other county employee and perhaps have even received less factoring our merit system.

Geo

unread,
Feb 5, 2011, 10:14:02 PM2/5/11
to harm...@googlegroups.com
Todd, first I must say that your responsiveness as well as that of Adam
Seithel is very commendable. There is no requirement that either of you
respond publicly this way, yet you have, repeatedly. This is especially
significant since neither of you are public officials elected by me or
anyone else in Harmony. I thank you very much for this and you should know
that it is greatly appreciated. IMHO, at a minimum this demonstrates good
faith on the part of you, Adam and the Union of Firefighters.

Henceforth, I will assume that Adam is OK with you responding on his behalf
(as he has indicated previously), unless we hear otherwise from him.

If I have not misread your response Todd, you have acknowledged that our
firefighters have indeed received compensation increases over the years
since 2003, as have other employees of Osceola County. Thank you for this
information.

This leads naturally to a few new questions for Fred.

FHQ) What is the current status of the county commission's discussion of
Harmony's Fire Station?

FHQ) Can you tell us if any county employees have had compensation
reductions (especially police officers) over the past few years? If so, how
much has their compensation been cut?

Geo

unread,
Feb 10, 2011, 12:18:44 PM2/10/11
to harm...@googlegroups.com
Note: I have noticed that Google is now inserting annoying "redirection
page" prompts within TinyURL references. Let's see if the same thing happens
with deep links directly into this site. Please let me know if anyone has
issues with long URLs being truncated or wrapped in your email reader (the
original motivation for using TinyURL).

Fred, perhaps I misunderstood you when you told me that you would no longer
leave us up-in-the-air on open questions. When you said that you would at
least acknowledge questions and commit to answering them by a certain date,
what did you really mean? (see
http://groups.google.com/group/harmonyfl/msg/e79dae6707c1ad74 ) Did you mean
that you would only do so for certain questions that you want to answer?

I can understand if you have been given the impression that no one else in
Harmony cares about this issue, considering that even our so-called
community leaders are now oddly silent about it. But I think that you would
be making a serious error in judgement on this Fred.

The impression may be given that you now personally own this issue Fred. If
the fire station closes, I'm afraid that it may become known as Fred's
closed fire station, especially since you were one of the most vocal
supporters of the station when it opened (see
http://groups.google.com/group/harmonyfl/msg/9c45a70e4f70ad69 and the
attachment below). How will you explain that it is now reasonable to close a
brand new fire station that cost more than 3 million dollars to build less
than 2 years ago to save $655,000 now?

After reviewing your previous answers I realized that something was left out
Fred. You said that the county saved $800,000 since 2009 from the police
force, but you did not say if police officers actually took a pay cut in the
process. Also, I find it hard to understand how the police force can add 14
police officers while also cutting back their budget by $800,000. Perhaps
something I heard recently partially explains this, which of course leads to
another question.

FHQ) It is my understanding that the county pays 100% of the costs of our
firefighters. Does the county receive any money from the state of Florida to
help pay for Osceola County police officers? If so, how much?

Harmony Fire Station Ribbon Cutting_PR09-38.pdf

Geo

unread,
Feb 15, 2011, 7:51:01 PM2/15/11
to harm...@googlegroups.com
Per Fred's request, here are the currently open questions again, the first
two of which have been pending since February 5th:

FHQ) What is the current status of the county
commission's discussion of Harmony's Fire Station?

FHQ) Can you tell us if any county employees have had
compensation reductions (especially police officers)
over the past few years? If so, how much has their
compensation been cut?

FHQ) It is my understanding that the county pays 100%


of the costs of our firefighters. Does the county
receive any money from the state of Florida to help pay
for Osceola County police officers? If so, how much?

Thank you as always for being responsive Fred. We know that you are very
busy and we appreciate your time and whatever you can do to help us better
understand the issues that affect all of us.

Geo

unread,
Feb 18, 2011, 6:18:36 PM2/18/11
to HarmonyFL
Fred responded to the remaining open questions on another thread. See:

http://groups.google.com/group/harmonyfl/msg/8e53999ee40e145e

While Fred's post is formatted well and is very easy to read (Thank
you Fred), I will present his answers here for the sake of consistency
with the previous posts.

Question:

FHQ) What is the current status of the county
commission's discussion of Harmony's Fire Station?

Fred Hawkins:

I have not heard anything specific about the Harmony
Fire Station or any other station being mentioned in or
possibly closing. County staff has continued to have
talks with the Union. I am told that some days there
looks like things are going in a positive direction and
the next time they speak things fall apart. I do know
the health risk issue and pay increase is headed to
arbitration. I do not think there has been a date set
yet. I have been getting messages from fire fighters
and it seems they have not been made aware of the
negotiations and what has been offered. Let me say I
have not contacted them..they have saw or sent me
messages. I would say a large majority of the guys I
have spoken to were very exceptive of the county's
offers. many stated they understand the tough times we
are in.

Question:

FHQ) Can you tell us if any county employees have had
compensation reductions (especially police officers)
over the past few years? If so, how much has their
compensation been cut?

Fred Hawkins:

I can tell you that over the years I have been in
office all the employees have been asked to pay more
towards their health insurance. The deputies last year
did not pay more as the Sheriff absorbed the increase
in his budget. The sheriff sets his budget and
presents it to the commission. He is an elected
official and therefore sets his own budget. The BOCC
can negotiate with him on his budget and any impasse
goes to the Gov. office to be settled.

Question:

FHQ) It is my understanding that the county pays 100%
of the costs of our firefighters. Does the county
receive any money from the state of Florida to help pay
for Osceola County police officers? If so, how much?

Fred Hawkins:

Both are funded out of the overall county budget. This
is from the general fund and the fire assessment. The
county does receive money dedicated for education of
officers from some of the court fees. Additionally
there are funds that come from forfeiture that goes to
the Sheriff.

Thank you again Fred. I am sure that more questions will arise in the
near future.

In mean time, I think it would be helpful for you, the firefighters or
anyone else to offer any creative ideas for discussion on how we can
get past this impasse and help eliminate this nagging fear that
Harmony's fire station will be closed anytime in the foreseeable
future.
> what did you really mean? (seehttp://groups.google.com/group/harmonyfl/msg/e79dae6707c1ad74) Did you mean
> that you would only do so for certain questions that you want to answer?
>
> I can understand if you have been given the impression that no one else in
> Harmony cares about this issue, considering that even our so-called
> community leaders are now oddly silent about it. But I think that you would
> be making a serious error in judgement on this Fred.
>
> The impression may be given that you now personally own this issue Fred. If
> the fire station closes, I'm afraid that it may become known as Fred's
> closed fire station, especially since you were one of the most vocal
> supporters of the station when it opened (seehttp://groups.google.com/group/harmonyfl/msg/9c45a70e4f70ad69and the
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