After about 2,400 people signed an online petition to keep Palm Beach County Fire Rescue service for the town of Jupiter, organizers are working to bring the issue directly to voters.
About 30 people came to a meeting at Stadium Grill on Monday night to show support for keeping services with the county. Some attendees included current members of PBCFR.
Jupiter’s town council voted to create its own fire department in August. Council members based their decision on a consultant report, estimating a savings of $68 million over a 10-year period and giving the town additional control over emergency services.
“There’s still tremendous cost savings,” Counselor Ron Delaney said. “I just look at this personally as an elected official, and I’m a steward of the residents of Jupiter proper taxpayer dollars, I’d be a dereliction of duty not moving forward with our own independent town of Jupiter Fire Department.”
However, this group believes the council acted without properly notifying the residents about the change. It started a petition advocating against the change because Palm Beach Fire Rescue offered “exceptional service” and its certifications lowered home insurance prices.
Nadine Burns, who lives in Jupiter, said she signed the online petition. She said she doesn’t trust her local government because she believes there was a lack of transparency on this decision.
“I don’t have anything in the mail,” Burns said. “There was no phone call from the city. There was no polling. There was no true public notice.”
According to town documents, a consultant report on the possibility of creating a department took place from July to September 2022. It estimated the department would save millions after creating a fire department, which would provide paramedics and firefighters as early as fiscal year 2026.
Linda McDermott, who is one of the organizers, said she used to help write budgets for other local governments. She said she doesn’t believe the consultant’s numbers are accurate.
“I know the town council wants the best thing for Jupiter,” McDermott said. “But, I don’t think they truly know how much this is going to cost.”
DJ Manger, who is within leadership for a local union for firefighters and paramedics in Palm Beach County, said the union is against the decision because it was done without a lot of public notice. He also said a potential Jupiter Fire Rescue Department could have less senior staff because bigger departments like Palm Beach County Fire Rescue have more resources.
“Smaller fire departments are stepping stones for larger municipal departments,” Manger said. “We pay more. We have better benefits. Our work schedule is usually better. Training and advancement within the department is greater.”
Chelsea Gass said they plan to create a paper petition, which could trigger a public vote on the issue.
According to the town of Jupiter’s code, if a petition is signed by 10% of registered voters during the last general election then the town council could reconsider the ordinance. If the ordinance is not repealed then it would go to a public vote.
WPTV contacted the town and Palm Beach County Fire Rescue after 5 p.m. Monday but didn’t receive a response.