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Date of Issue: June 17, 2009

County works to build marine rescue HQ

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Manatee County Marine Rescue Chief Jay Moyles points to where the county plans to build a new headquarters for his division and the Manatee County Sheriff's Office on the east side of Coquina Beach. Islander Photos: Lisa Neff
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Manatee County Marine Rescue Chief Jay Moyles.

Manatee County Marine Rescue Chief Jay Moyles bent down to diagram a dream in the sand.

The dream is of a marine rescue headquarters, which is now closer than ever to reality.

The county is reviewing bids for the building, which will be located south of Leffis Key at Coquina Beach Bayside in Bradenton Beach.

“I can see it,” Moyles said of his vision of the headquarters, which will house the marine rescue division, as well as the marine operation of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. “I’m excited for my staff. This will give them a place where they can say, ‘This is our home.’”

The headquarters will contain work space for the marine rescue lifeguards, storage space for all gear and vehicles, a conference and lecture room, training facilities for lifeguards, lockers, computer facilities, work and storage space for the MCSO and a dock.

A completion date — or even a construction start date — was not available, with county officials anticipating a rigorous permitting process ahead.

The project, from architectural fees to permitting to construction, is budgeted not to exceed $1 million.

For now, the marine rescue division operates out of the public-safety complex in east Bradenton and a storage room adjacent to a rest room at Coquina Beach Bayside.

The lifeguards used to operate out of a storage room at a bathroom on the north end of Coquina Beach. “That storage area was a little nicer,” Moyles said.

He unlocked a padlocked gate behind the bayside rest room and stepped into a small, sandy pen with space for a truck, ATVs, personal watercraft, traffic cones and barricades.

The yard was scented — not with salt air or “the beach” but with the odor associated with a sewage lift station.

Moyles unlocked a padlock on double doors at the back of the rest room to open what his lifeguards call “the pipe organ room.”

Pipes ran in various directions in the small storage space that also contained all the gear the lifeguards need to haul to their watch towers each shift.

The room, measuring about 200 square feet, was crowded with medical kits, rescue boards, dive gear, tools, water coolers, an ice machine, and, at the back, unclosed, a toilet and shower.

“We’ve got to make room for everything,” Moyles said.

Beside the toilet was a rat trap.

And beside the trap were rat droppings.

Inside the shower was a bottle of VO5 shampoo.

And nearby the shower were more rat droppings.

Moyles pointed to a couple holes in the wall, and spoke, but his words were lost in the loud gush of water through the pipes. Someone on the other side of the wall had flushed the public toilet.

“We’ve been bayside for well into 15 years,” Moyles said. “You can see what we are working with.”

The new headquarters will provide a cleaner working environment, but more importantly it will reinforce his team’s professionalism, he said.

“We’re a professional organization that’s been trying to get a professional headquarters,” Moyles said. “The county and Bradenton Beach recognize that this is a professional job, a professional job that makes a difference.”

The division employs 13 lifeguards who face different eligibility and training than the pool guards, who work under the parks and recreation department.

Currently, the marine rescue guards conduct simple training exercises in the watch towers and, for more extensive training, regroup in Bradenton at the public-safety complex.

“We’re excited about having training space,” Moyles said. “It is essential for what we do.”