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Date of Issue: May 24, 2007

Fire commission approves new rates

During a May 17 meeting of the West Manatee Fire Rescue District commission, firefighter Carlo Valente explains the proposed memorial to firefighters who died on Sept. 11, 2001. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

The West Manatee Fire Rescue District Commission set an increased 2007-08 assessment rate May 17 that will result in a base residential assessment of $139.37 for the first 1,000 square feet.

Residential property owners can expect to pay an additional .084 cents per square foot over 1,000 square feet of property.

The board of commissioners held a public hearing on the assessment rates for the new fiscal budget year at Station No. 1 in Holmes Beach.

No members of the public attended.

After a brief review by WMFR Chief Andy Price, the commission adopted a resolution setting the new rate schedule.

The commission was bound by a state law limiting the increase in the assessment rate to the personal income growth rate determined by the state.

For the new year, the personal income growth limit is 5.78 percent, slightly more than this year's 5.4 percent.

With the increase factored in, the new rate schedule was set.

Vacant lots will be assessed at $20 per lot or acre, the same for the current budget.

The base assessment for commercial parcels will be $334.48 for the first 1,000 square feet and .140 per square foot above 1,000 square feet of area. The base increased from $316.20.

The residential base rate applies to condominiums, mobile homes and miscellaneous parcels, as well as hotel/motel parcels. The base increased from $131.75.

Price has estimated that the 2007-08 budget will be about $5.3 million and not contain new personnel positions or significant equipment purchases. The new spending plan likely will include an increase for fuel and must include increases for health insurance and workers compensation.

The assessment rate increase will generate an additional $265,000 for the district, which covers a population of 40,000 and 19,500 parcels of property on the Island and the west Manatee mainland.

In other business last week, commissioners expressed their appreciation that members of Roser Memorial Community Church offered the church space for emergency use.

In a letter to local government officials and emergency officers, Roser's church council said "the congregation, the buildings, grounds, equipment and supplies of Roser ... are available for helping to meet the emergency needs of the community."

Commissioners also repeated their endorsement of a planned Sept. 11, 2001, memorial at Station No. 1.

The design is complete for the proposed memorial to firefighters killed in the terrorist attacks and the rescue efforts that followed. Firefighters hope to have the memorial ready for an unveiling on the anniversary of Sept. 11.

During the past several months, Anna Maria architect Gene Aubry worked with WMFR Battalion Chief Barry Brooks and firefighter Carlo Valente on the design.

Initially, WMFR firefighters had discussed creating a mural to serve as a memorial. The concept now involves building a tribute that incorporates the two towers of the World Trade Center.

Valente provided commissioners with an update last week.

The firefighter said a building official with the city of Holmes Beach saw no problems with the preliminary plans for the memorial, and the permitting process can begin.

The memorial would be just over 13 feet tall, from top to bottom, with 2.5 feet below ground.

"There's not going to be any problem with shifting," Valente assured the commission.

Price suggested encouraging public comment on the memorial, which would be seen along Marina Drive. "If there's any problem from the public, we want to know now," the chief said.

The commission's next meeting is at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 21, at Station No. 1, 6001 Marina Drive.