AVON PARK - The city council approved a resolution Monday in support of the city's fire department to dispel comments that the city was looking into disbanding the department.
City Manager Julian Deleon played a recording from his Smartphone to introduce the resolution on the agenda.
On the recording, radio talk show host Barry Foster said, "In my personal opinion they are going to use the Lake Placid model and go with a volunteer fire department."
A woman on the recording said, "I think you have the right picture, it's just a matter of, you know the ... "
Deleon said that was all he was able to record from a lengthy conversation that included Barry Foster of the Cohan Radio Group who, "kept carrying on and alleging that the council, city manager were looking at disbanding the fire department."
Fire department union president Warren West has told him he hears that on the street all the time, Deleon said. "I don't know where the allegations are coming from."
Deleon said the allegations are a hinderance to the employees.
"It's just not Barry Foster, AFSCME [union] Vice President Sally Perry was also there that night and she made the same exact allegations, in fact you heard it on the recording," he said. "I personally resent it; I find it counterproductive. There is not an ounce of fact into the allegations."
Councilman Garrett Anderson noted that on the recording Barry Foster stated it was his personal opinion. Everybody is entitled to a personal opinion.
Anderson said that Deleon has made more negative comments in the newspapers than anyone in the council chambers.
"I find it very hypocritical of you to criticize him [Foster] and Sally Perry who only expressed their opinions" he said.
Deleon responded that the resolution being considered states the city manager has had no discussions with the city council about disbanding the fire department.
Mayor Sharon Schuler said all the city's departments deserve respect.
"I don't see that they are being showed respect when this kind of conversation goes on regardless if its somebody's personal opinion," she said. "Everybody is entitled to that personal opinion, but I don't think it is fair to them [firefighters], their families, to the city for someone to make comments like that.
"So I am in favor of the resolution to support the fire department. I have always supported this fire department."
Deputy Mayor Brenda Giles said she supports the fire department and the resolution.
Foster told the council that a statement at the beginning of his talk show states that the opinions expressed during the show are not necessarily those of the ownership, staff, management or advertisers of the radio station.
"It is an opinion show; it's a chance for people to express their opinions on what they think might happen and what does happen," he said.
Foster said he likes safety services, but, "I, like you, hear many people tell me that ... they believe you are going to take the Lake Placid model and go to a volunteer fire department."
He said he has no "dog in this fight."
Foster said he forgives the city manager for not understanding the difference between rumors and opinions.
"If you want to support the fire department that's fine by me, but don't try ... to take a shot at me and certainly not a shot at my employer because I give people the right to express their opinion," he said.
Deleon said he wanted to set the record straight because they want to work off "facts" and not "innuendoes."
Anderson said he supports the fire department, but believes the resolution should not name names.
Council approved Resolution 14-11 by a four to one vote, with Anderson voting "no."
The resolution's heading states the city council rejects and disapproves of rumors of outsourcing city fire protection services and declares support for the city fire protection services.