110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
posted Feb 25, 2014 - 12:46:07pm
Feb. 19's DeBary City Council workshop opened to a lively debate between members over the importance of a new study to determine where to build badly needed police and fire stations.
The debate didn’t stop there. While there was agreement among City Council members that the city must invest in new public-safety infrastructure, there was clear disagreement over how the council should proceed.
One big question is whether property purchased by the city at the intersection of U.S. Highway 17-92 and Colomba Road, should be used for both a police and fire station, or one or the other.
The property is around the corner from the current DeBary Fire Station 33.
On this point, Council Member Rick Dwyer questioned why the rest of the City Council was ignoring the advice of experts, including a 2008 Volusia County Fire Services study that “with orders of clarity” listed sites best suited for station construction.
Dwyer said the study determined the city’s best option would be to rebuild on the existing Fire Station 33 lot; if not there, then on the old City Hall site, now the home of a splash park, and so on.
In addition, the study recommended that if the current City Hall cannot be repurposed, then a second fire station within DeBary is warranted.
More alarming to Dwyer, he said, are his conversations with Port Orange police and fire chiefs who, after building a new joint structure, were already reverting daily operations to their pre-existing stations, citing natural incompatibilities between police and fire operations.
Dwyer’s questions prompted Council Member Dan Hunt declared, “My priority is a police station, not a fire station, if I have anything to do about it.”
Vice Mayor Chris Carson countered, “I believe we need both fire and police,” to be housed in a joint structure. Carson said neither of the current fire and police stations near Highway 17-92 and Colomba Road “meet today’s standards.”
Although the City Council has discussed police and fire stations many times, Dwyer’s opening statement deplored the lack of discussion about the joint structure’s placement.
Back in 2005, the DeBary City Council convinced Volusia County to donate the property where City Hall now stands, on the condition that the city pursue plans to build a new fire station on the property.
If the city does not build a new fire station by 2016, a 10-year reverter clause transfers the property back to the DeBary Volunteer Fire Department.
You can now begin to see what all the fuss is about.
The discussion ended with most of those present agreeing that a fire and police combination station should be the priority, and that the city will perform an internal assessment of the best location.
Though no specifics were given regarding this internal study, City Manager Dan Parrott suggested it would entail a comparing the locations where emergency calls are concentrated in the city.
Dwyer was alone in insisting that a new expert study be commissioned, perhaps to be done by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA).
Dwyer said this would “ensure they choose the best available option and not waste taxpayer dollars on a bad site.”
A new study was estimated to cost between $35,000 and $55,000. No estimates were given of the costs either of building a new station or repurposing existing structures.
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