Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

City to Expand Its Fire Services | Plans Include Building New Stations, Buying Equipment and New Hires

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

City to Expand Its Fire Services | Plans Include Building New Stations, Buying Equipment and New Hires

Article excerpt

NORTH PORT -- When__ Bill Taaffe took the helm of__ North Port's fire department__ in 2003, the city had just two__ fire stations.__ The population__ was__ soaring, but__ North Port__ had budgeted__ to add only one__ station every__ five years. Taaffe knew that__ would not be enough.__ So North Port called an__ audible, buying more emergency__ vehicles and over three__ years building three temporary__ fire stations -- each__ consisting of a doublewide__ mobile home with a metal__ canopy to house emergency__ vehicles -- instead of a single__ permanent one.__ Since then, two of the temporary__ stations have been__ replaced with permanent structures. A $3.1 mil-lion__ construction project__ to replace the final tem-porary__ station with a__ hurricane-resistant__ building at the south-east__ corner of Biscayne__ and Ponce de Leon boulevards__ is slated to begin__ later this year. It should__ become operational__ after another eight to 12__ months and could last for__ 40 years.__ Even though North__ Port's population is__ expected to nearly double__ over the next 20 years,__ Taaffe said the city now__ has plans in place so__ that it may never have__ to return to temporary__ stations.__ "In the future, we're__ hoping to forecast prop-erly__ when we need those__ fire stations in the growing__ areas and to have the__ funding to do it at that__ time," he said. "It takes__ time to build up that kind__ of reserve. It's not some-thing__ you do overnight."__ North Port's Capit al inmprovement__ Program lists three new__ fire stations in North__ Port's future, with locations__ spanning from the__ city's western half to near__ Interstate 75.__ The infrastructure__ expansion is anticipated__ to cost more than $13.2__ million in construction__ and purchases of new fire__ engines and ambulances.__ But Finance Direc-tor__ Pete Lear said the__ city is ready to endure__ those costs because the__ city budgets for such__ expenses years before the__ city has to cut a check.__ The funding comes from__ a mix of surtaxes, fire__ impact fees, fire rescue__ district assessments and__ developer contributions. …

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