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County hosts marine rescue HQ open house

By Lisa Neff, Islander Reporter

To celebrate the Aug. 15 opening of the new Manatee County Marine Rescue Division Headquarters at Coquina Bayside in Bradenton Beach, elected officials, agency chiefs and others gather for a ribbon-cutting. Islander Photos: Lisa Neff

Manatee County Marine Rescue Chief Jay Moyles marked the grand opening of the new beach headquarters Aug. 15 with a declaration: “I’m a proud papa. This has been a labor of love.”

Until this summer, Moyles’ marine rescue team operated out of a storage room at the back of a Coquina Bayside rest room.

Now the lifeguards, as well as the marine unit of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, have new digs — a $1.2 million, two-story headquarters with a super-sized garage for boats and vehicles on the ground level and a series of offices on the second level. A dock on the bay includes slips for public safety boats.

A crowd of more than 100 people attended the grand opening last week, which featured a ribbon-cutting, speech-making, tours of the facility and lots of “congratulations” and “cheers.”

“This is something you can be proud of,” said Manatee County Commission Chair Carol Whitmore.

“This is a long time coming,” said Commissioner John Chappie, who represents the Island and west portions of the county. “This is a major investment for public safety. …It’s a perfect location.”

Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube said that on major holidays, when the public beaches fill with thousands of people, beefed up teams of law enforcement personnel are assigned to police the area.

But until the construction of the headquarters there was no beach location for breaks or report-making outside “the hot sun.”

Steube said the headquarters was built “with great cooperation between Manatee County and the city of Bradenton Beach.”

The headquarters is 8,800 square feet and was built to withstand winds of 130 mph, as well as conserve energy. The county used low-emissivity glass to improve thermal efficiency but still offer striking views of the bay and beach. Highly reflective material covers the roof and LED lighting is on the outside of the building.

The headquarters can hold six ATVs, two personal watercraft vessels, two pickup trucks and an MCSO boat.

Aug. 15 was still a working day for those who attended the celebration, including the builder, Zirkelbach Construction of Palmetto.

In a trailer with a massive grill, the ZC team of Alan Zirkelbach and Rich Rapean served hot dogs and hamburgers to the crowd and at the same time fielded telephone calls about building projects.

Across Gulf Drive at Coquina Beach, marine rescue guards continued to watch the beach and the swim zone on a day with choppy waves and storms in the forecast.

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