Story Tools

Date of Issue: September 23, 2009

New fire district facilities costly

Unless the West Manatee Fire District hits the winning combination in the Florida Lottery soon, it will have to hope that its application for federal stimulus funds for new facilities and upgrades is approved.

WMFR Chief Andy Price told the district board at its Sept. 17 meeting that the company hired to inspect the district facilities estimates it will take about $7 million to $8 million to do all the work under consideration at the three district stations.

That work includes bringing the structures up to present building codes, refitting the existing structures and adding a new administration building.

“That amount covers all three stations and facilities for the next 20 years,” Price said.

But that’s if the board wanted to do everything, Price noted.

“Remember, we do not have to come up to code,” he said. New building codes were adopted after the construction of the buildings, which are grandfathered for code compliance.

The district could just repair and improve its existing structures, but Price said that’s an estimate the company is still working to determine. He expected that figure to be available around Jan. 1.

Price said the estimates are for informational purposes only at this point.

“There’s nothing to be done now. There are a lot of things that have to happen before you make a decision,” he said.

True, said board member Jesse Davis, “But the longer we wait, the more expensive it will become.”

Price said if the district gets its entire stimulus request, it could probably begin construction very soon, and do all the estimated work. Without the stimulus package, it will take the district two to three years to begin even one part of its new facilities program.

It might have to consider borrowing the money for repairs and improvements to WMFR facilities, he suggested.

The least expensive option is to refit and repair what the district has now, without adding an administration building or bringing the buildings up to code, Price observed.

But the district’s facilities are aging. One station is 40 years old, while two are 20 years old, Price said.

“There comes a time when they start breaking down and you have to replace them,” he said. “It’s time to start doing major work” on the facilities.

Of the estimated $8 million price tag, Price said the district is “not the small, little fire district that we used to be” when he and every other fireman on the Island were volunteers.

Times have changed and WMFR now has an annual budget in excess of $5 million.

Price said he did not know when the government would announce if WMFR was getting any of the $210 million earmarked by the administration for fire stations facilities across the nation.