Good morning, neighbors, and we have something important to talk about.

Based on my attendance at some meetings of The Villages Homeowners Advocates with members of The Villages Public Safety Department, it’s time for us to clarify some of the debate about the vote at the Nov. 8 general election to create The Villages Independent Special Fire District.

First, the VHA along with many other organizations attended county commission meetings and decided to fight for the creation of an independent fire district. At the time, the​ county was considering various options that included the merger of District Public Safety’s full-service fire-rescue operations with Sumter County Fire & EMS. Our primary concerns were twofold; one, the possibility that if this happened there was a chance that it would be morphed into a “one size fits all” county system and, two, that our first insurance rating might be reduced with the potential for increases in homeowner insurance rates.

We also feared the loss of two unique and valuable services that are provided to Villagers. The merger might not permit firefighters coming to our homes and replacing smoke-alarm batteries so we don’t have to climb ladders. It might weaken District Public Safety’s support of our local community AED programs.

We worked hard with our elected representative and senator in the Florida Legislature to gain legislative intent to form an independent fire district. Gov. Ron DeSantis approved sending it to the voters.

We recognized that we may experience a nominal increase in cost. But, if you want level “A” Service, it’s not free.  I also certainly don’t want any reduction in our response times or the special support services we get from our firefighters. I also want them to have the best equipment available, superior training and a competitive pay scale so they can support themselves and their families.

In recent meetings, other than a possible cost increase, the only complaint that I heard by a few who usually are against everything, is that the Developer’s staff may have input in who the governor appoints as board members of the independent fire district. Those critics, who claim the sky is falling, seem to forget that the Developer also has significant risk in terms of fire safety for its commercial properties as a property owner in The Villages.

Keep in mind, once board members are appointed by DeSantis, they owe their allegiance to all Villagers. They will be appointed for two- and four-year terms. At that point, they will be replaced by board members elected by all residents who live within the independent fire district.

I personally recommend to you that if you want first-class fire safety and its support to continue in The Villages, vote for the creation of the independent fire district. We need to maintain residents’ control over District Public Safety. So, stay safe.

Fred Briggs, 
Past VHA President