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WMFR seeks remodeled Holmes Beach station

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

West Manatee Fire Rescue District commissioners voted Jan. 20 to remodel Station No. 1 on Holmes Beach, now that WMFR has moved into its remodeled $1.5 million headquarters on Third Avenue North in Bradenton.

Six prospective contractors attended a pre-submittal meeting Jan. 19 for the estimated $150,000-$200,000 project, WMFR Chief Andy Price said. RFPs must be returned by Feb. 16.

The project will include correcting deficiencies at Station No. 1 noted in a 2009 report by Totems Architecture Inc., in addition to any new issues discovered by a contractor and architect. The scope of work also includes a redesign of the meeting and staff rooms, Price said.

“But we really don’t have a good estimate. It could be more than $200,000, or less. I’m hoping it’s a lot less,” he said.

Price said he anticipates having a contractor and architect selected by Feb. 16 for the board to review and approve at its Feb. 17 meeting.

In other business, Commissioner Randy Cooper said he attended the quarterly meeting of the Manatee County Fire Chiefs Association and found “plenty of negative interest” in consolidating the county’s independent fire districts.

State Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, issued a position paper in December favoring the consolidation of nine of the 11 fire districts in Manatee County. Bennett did not include Longboat Key or Bradenton.

Price said he does not oppose consolidation if he knows it will provide the necessary services and save taxpayers money, but has long maintained that the county commission, not the fire districts, should pay for a consolidation feasibility study.

Price also told commissioners that WMFR is preparing an equipment replacement schedule to meet state and federal laws for equipment.

“We have to now look ahead and see what’s coming up for replacement or repair years ahead of time,” he said.

Federal and state laws require that firefighting equipment must be certified, meet certain standards and be replaced when the laws require, not when the equipment is no longer usable.

“It used to be we could buy bunker gear off-the-rack, but no longer. If our gear or equipment does not meet requirements, we can’t use it and a firefighter can’t go out to a fire,” Price said.

“And nothing is getting cheaper. Eventually, everything will be on the replacement schedule.”

Commissioner Scott Ricci commented on the sudden death from an apparent heart attack earlier this month of Bradenton Fire Chief Mark Souders, 46. Ricci wanted to ensure firefighters and staff to follow a rigorous physical fitness regimen and have physical examinations.

They do, replied Price.

“We have an annual physical exam based on age,” he said. Anyone over the age of 50 also takes a stress test.

Commission Chair Larry Tyler said several staff have had to retire in the past on failing the stress test or another portion of the exam.

“People not in firefighting don’t understand the stress firefighters are under,” Price said. “When you go out on call four, five or six times a day, it increases your adrenalin flow and your heart rate jumps way up. It’s a stressful job.”

Price said WMFR is organizing a Health and Wellness Committee to institute physical fitness programs.

The commission’s next meeting is 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 17, at the Third Street administrative center.

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