By CHRIS MANSON
At Monday’s regular monthly meeting of the South Walton Fire District’s (SWFD) Board of Fire Commissioners, the board approved a five-percent pay increase in pay for Chief Rick Talbert. Chairman Maurice Gilbert briefly explained the appraisal process and said Talbert “is just an outstanding person in all respects. He’s done an amazing job.”
Gilbert added that the salary increase, to take affect at the beginning of the year, puts Talbert in line with his peers in other fire districts.
The meeting began with Talbert’s announcement of Ross Carter, who currently works in the SWFD’s surf rescue division, as this year’s recipient of the SWFD AirHeart-1 Lifeguard Scholarship. “We’re excited and proud of you,” said Talbert. Carter plans to pursue emergency management training at Northwest Florida State College.
The treasury report put the SWFD operating budget at $7,205,375.63, with $4,534.37 in the district’s impact fee account. The latter figure marks an increase of $2,075.50 from the previous month.
November’s emergency response activity statistics included 29 fires, nearly double the amount from 2007. “Fires are on the upswing,” said Talbert. He explained that all of the fire incidents were related to structures, wild lands, and vehicles. “Nothing unusual.” The SWFD reported one water-related beach rescue last month.
Talbert congratulated Abbit and Seat 5 Commissioner Ed Wright on their recent reelections to the board.
The SWFD will hold its annual awards ceremony at Seascape Dec. 19, said Talbert. Four firefighters and paramedics will represent the district in the upcoming Florida Advanced Life Support Competition in Daytona Beach. Talbert will meet with Gov. Charlie Crist in Tallahassee Dec. 10.
Talbert also reported that a recent sit-down with Sheriff-elect Mike Adkinson was “very productive” and that the SWFD is fully committed to working with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office in the upcoming year.
Administrative assistant Diane Brown said this year’s Angel Tree campaign is underway. People can stop by the SWFD headquarters building on CR-393 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays to pick a child’s name and buy a present. The program provides for needy younger children as well as older boys in detention facilities.
The next SWFD board meeting will be held Jan. 5, 2009.