WMFR adopts rate hike maximum, approves board of appeals

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West Manatee Fire Rescue firefighter Adam Baggett stands while wife Flo pins a badge to his chest. Baggett received a promotion from second- to first-class firefighter May 18. Islander Photos: Bianca Benedí
West Manatee Fire Rescue firefighter Capt. Ben Rigney has wife Cori pin a badge to his chest. Rigney was promoted to administrative battalion chief.

The West Manatee Fire Rescue board voted 3-2 May 18 for a maximum assessment rate hike of 2 percent for residential properties.

The commission also approved a maximum rate hike of 4 percent for commercial properties for the 2017-18 fiscal year.

The rate hikes would bring up to $140,000 in additional revenue.

The WMFR will begin constructing a fiscal budget in August for the next year, but the maximum rate hike must be set by June 1. During the budget preparation process for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, commissioners will be able to lower but not increase the proposed rate hike.

A public hearing was held for the rate hike, but no comments were submitted.

Commissioners Al Robinson and David Bishop voted against the hikes.

Robinson said Chief Tom Sousa did a good job with the budget, but the hikes undermine opinion of WMFR’s fiscal responsibility.

The commission also voted to approve a proposed Manatee County board of appeals to resolve manners related to fire prevention codes among Manatee fire districts.

The board contains seven members: general contractor Raj Mathur, fire protection contractor Alan Breitwieser, architect Gary Roberts, electrical engineer Philip Feikema, architect Chester Scott, attorney Laland Taylor and Norm Luppino, a member of the general public.

All fire districts in Manatee must approve the board, according to the duties set by the Manatee County Fire Chiefs’ Association.

In other news, WMFR has been unable to sell its administrative building at 6417 Third Ave. W., Bradenton, which is larger than WMFR needs.

As a result of the lack of offers, real estate agent J. Daniel Douglass recommended the board drop the price $305,000. The listing is now $1,675,000.