The union representing Disney World’s first responders is backing Gov. Ron Desantis’ plan for Florida to take control of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, according to a report.
“Anything has got to be better than what we currently have,” Tim Stromsnes, communications director of the Reedy Creek Professional Firefighters Local 2117, told the Orlando Sentinel on Monday.
DeSantis is expected to appoint a new board to control Reedy Creek, a special district that Disney has run since its creation in 1967.
The move is part of a new plan that was announced Friday on Osceola County’s website that said Florida lawmakers will seek legislation “increasing state oversight, accountability, and transparency” of the district, which gives Disney quasi-government control over its theme park properties in Florida.
Currently, Reedy Creek can issue bonds, levy taxes, oversee land use and environmental protections and provide essential public services.
The planned legislation will ensure that the Mouse House will pay upward of $700 million in unsecured debt accumulated by Reedy Creek Improvement District — and not taxpayers in Orange County, which the district encompasses.
The district is slated to be dissolved on June 1 under a law approved by lawmakers and signed by DeSantis last April. It followed a spat between the governor and the Mouse House over the controversial so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which bans the discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation for kids in kindergarten through third grade.
After DeSantis signed the law to dissolve Reedy Creek, the first responders’ union told The Sentinel that members were worried about losing certain benefits. Union leaders have since been in contact with DeSantis’ office and are “encouraged” by the governor’s “track record” of taking care of Florida’s first responders, the newspaper reported.
“We really hope that this new board will bring the morale up for Reedy Creek [and] will make us an elite emergency services department again,” the union’s rep Stromsnes said. “We’ve got our faith in the governor that we’re going to be around and that it’s going to be a better place to work.”
In recent years, union members have griped about understaffing, poor employee support and that changes to the department’s mutual aid policies with neighboring fire departments potentially poses a risk to Disney employees’ and guests’ safety, The Sentinel said. Both Disney and Reedy Creek have called the accusations untrue.
The union hopes DeSantis’ board will not only increase the district’s accountability, but also facilitate communication for a new union contract negotiations for firefighters and paramedics.
Disney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.