EAST COUNTY — Officials of East Manatee Fire Rescue are working to fulfill a promise made to voters in 2003 — better coverage for nearly every home in the district.
East Manatee officials closed Dec. 14, on two land parcels that will put nearly every homeowner in the district’s boundaries within five miles of a fire station, once stations are constructed on them in future years.
“We’re excited,” East Manatee Fire Rescue Chief Byron Teates said. “It was a wise move on behalf of the district. We’ll have about 95% of our district within five miles of a fire station (once those stations are built).”
The first property, currently an orange grove, sits on about five acres on the southwest corner of the intersection of State Road 64 and Dam Road, just west of The Concession. The second parcel, now sod fields, is located near the northeast corner of State Road 64, immediately west of the Panther Ridge community’s western border.
“We know there (are projects) already being planned for out there (but we don’t know when they’ll be built),” Teates said. “The bottom line is it’s not going to be any cheaper in the future to buy this property. The most important thing is (we got property) where we need the stations, not where we would have to settle for (once development occurs).”
Teates said stations will be built on the properties as growth in the area demands, likely not for another three-to-five years.
East Manatee purchased the properties from Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch for $922,000. Teates said the district has been saving money for such a purchase and did not have to take out a loan to finance the deal.
Money used for the transaction came from savings from an ad valorem assessment that passed a public referendum in March 2004 and went into effect late that year. The district had lobbied for the ad valorem assessment, starting in 2003, because special assessments for services were not keeping up with growth, Teates said.
As part of a pledge to voters, district officials told constituents the money would be used to complete coverage of East Manatee’s district — areas that will be serviced directly by stations on those properties.
Once built, the stations also will help to reduce insurance premiums and improve insurance options for homeowners in those areas, he said.
Teates also said the district has no plans to purchase additional properties.
“That’s not to say density doesn’t change, but based on what we see this (is all we will probably need),” Teates said.
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