published: Sunday, April 07, 2013
Future of SNL fire station unclear
By SAMANTHA GHOLAR
SEBRING -- The Board of Supervisors held a lengthy discussion regarding the future of the fire department in Sun 'N Lake Friday morning, and in the end decided they needed more time to think about it.
Supervisors were presented a resolution from General Manager Michael Wright that basically would ask the Highlands County Board of County Commissioners to expand West Sebring Volunteer Fire Department into the Sun 'N Lake district.
Currently, the nine firefighters with SNL are part-time, working eight-hour shifts each day. The fire station is not manned after normal business hours. Most of the firefighters are full-time employees with other entities, which means their first duty is with their full-time department.
Wright made the argument that the current fire department is inadequate and that the proposed idea would be of the most benefit to the residents of the community. SNL firefighters do not respond to many fire calls, going on mostly medical runs, he said, and do not have adequate equipment to take on a large fire if one should occur in the community.
"For 40 percent of the after-hours calls in the community, we have to rely on mutual aid. West Sebring covers roughly 40 percent of the county. They responded to 110 calls last month alone," Wright said.
The option to expand the fire department in SNL to employ full-time firefighters with adequate facilities would cost more than $1 million, according to Wright.
A facility has been proposed on Sun 'N Lake Boulevard that would house firefighters and serve as an EMS station. The building would be owned by the county, a fact that some board members were not thrilled about.
"The ... EMS station on Sun 'N Lake Boulevard can be used by West Sebring if they are brought in," said Wright.
The building would serve as a station for the proposed part-time first responders who would work 12-hour days. SNL would pay a third of the cost of the building construction under this proposal, which would have to go before the county commission. If approved, the project would have to begin before the June 30 deadline to make it into the year's fiscal budget deadline of Oct. 1.
"I like the idea of expanding on our first responders. I think it's high priority," said board member Curt McCullough.
"I think the time has come, it's been on the books since last June. I think it'd be a great benefit to the residents of this community to have a fire department and EMS. I'm in favor of bringing West Sebring in here and having the security and I'd be willing to partner on any improvements," board member Gene Gangemi said.
"I don't like the idea of a footprint in here. The county's footprint would be in this district," said board member Richard Holbert.
After several more minutes of discussion and input from firefighters, the meeting took a different tone when residents voiced their concerns.
Tom Costy, resident and secretary for the Manor Hill Owners Association, had plenty to say regarding the topic of a new facility.
"We certainly have taken care of our recreation services but haven't given adequate efforts to other services," Costy said. "I don't see why we would invest money into someone else's property when we are sitting on thousands of acres of land in our own district."
Wright reminded meeting attendees that the cost of building a facility separate from the county that would house employees for 24-hour shifts would cost "upwards of $1 million."
"Well, we didn't have a problem building a $3 million clubhouse," board president Dave Helbig said. "This is a tough one. I wasn't looking forward to this meeting and now I'm looking less forward to it and to what's coming. I think we should look at keeping our own fire department but I don't want to do away with this building concept. I know we've beat it up and beat it up, but I think we need to give it more thought."
"I don't feel like you would get any better service," Wright said.
"So do we transfer our fire department to West Sebring or do we maintain it? That is the big fundamental question here," Helbig said.
The item was unanimously approved to be tabled until the next meeting.
Wright was given instruction to come back to the meeting with more numbers that would show the cost of employing part-time firefighters on a 24-hour schedule with two firefighters on duty each day, as well as options on the cost of going with the current proposal to construct a facility with the help of the county and the cost of retrofitting a building on Sun 'N Lake property without county ownership.
(by: Survey1 - 4/9/2013)
Don't do it, you are so far from the truth. You need to get the information first before you open your mouth you weasel. Your probably retired and hate everyone just like John Q up top, you are sad!
SNL (by: John Q - 4/8/2013)
Paid firefighters are an anachronistic waste of tax dollars. All fire departments, county emergency management, county fire services (whatever they do), and the Division of Forestry can and should be staffed by volunteers.
Build it! (by: Blindman~ - 4/7/2013)
Build it and they will come! And so will the bills & more taxes.
Money (by: FF1 - 4/7/2013)
You get what you pay for. Right now they pay for coverage during the day, they get coverage during the day. The folks in the county pay for volunteer, and they get people to show up when they can. Neither solution is right in this case, but you get what you pay for.
hey, dont do it (by: firefighters save lives - 4/7/2013)
Micheal Wright has failed to mention that he collects a retirement check from past employment AND SNL pays him $120,000 a year. I can see why he wants volunteers. Be careful SNL he might want to recruit volunteers for every department that SNL has. So, you got some young firefighters trying to provide for there families, they just want a job doing what they like doing. I'm sure you know and they know they're not going to get rich. There's such a thing called part time 24, that's two 12hr shifts, I'm pretty sure that part time firefighters cannot be in the union. Also, most volunteers do this for experience, and then they go get paid.
SNL fire (by: nobody important - 4/7/2013)
WSVFD doesn't respond to barely any calls at night anyways. Keep the fire dept you have.
if it aint broke...dont fix it (by: Sam Schultz - 4/7/2013)
Whats wrong with the way it is now?
get ready sun n lake (by: dont do it - 4/7/2013)
Youtake on a full time fire department and watch the union come in and demand higher wages and benefits. Isnt anyone paying attention to Sebrings issues with their fire fighters? Its all about THEIR jobs and PENSION.
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