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East County Wednesday, May 15, 2019 3 months ago

Fire districts talk merger in Lakewood Ranch area

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East Manatee, Myakka fire districts explore options.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

East County’s two fire districts might have a future together.

Commissioners from the Myakka City Fire Control District and East Manatee Fire Rescue District are set to talk May 20 about a possible merger.

Myakka City Fire Chairman Charley Matson said discussions are exploratory and no decisions have been made.

“It’s just a meeting to determine if there’s a fit there. Is it good for both of us?” Matson said. “We’ve worked very closely with East Manatee over many, many years. As the county is growing, is it better to be part of the big district, or is it better to keep our local rural nature? That’s the gist of what we’re going to be talking about.”

Matson said the boards have no “preconceived notions.”

East Manatee Fire Rescue Chief Lee Whitehurst and Myakka City Fire Chief Danny Cacchiotti declined comment, saying the conversations are between their respective boards.

According to the minutes from the Myakka City Fire Control District board meeting on April 8, Cacchiotti said data suggests some Myakka district residents could see a reduction in assessments if Myakka merged with East Manatee.

The board voted unanimously to have Cacchiotti draft a formal letter to East Manatee requesting a meeting. Cacchiotti also sent letters to Manatee County commissioners notifying them of the discussions.

Matson said talk of a merger between the two districts has come up several times over the years, including in the early 2000s, at which time negotiations progressed, but were never completed.

Each of the fire districts are their own taxing districts.

Myakka City Fire Control District board’s board is appointed by the Manatee County Commission and it has a fiscal year 2018-2019 budget of $2.24 million, including reserves.

The Myakka City Fire Control District is located east of County Road 675 and extends easterly to the Desoto and Hardee county lines. It continues along the north side running slightly above State Road 64 and southward to the Sarasota County line. It covers 230 square miles. The district operates two staffed fire stations.

East Manatee Fire Rescue District’s board is elected by residents of its district. It has a budget of $36 million, including reserves, according to budget documents.

East Manatee Fire Rescue’s territory runs from the Manatee River south to the Sarasota County line and from the Braden River east to County Road 675. It consists of about 100 square miles and it has six fire stations.

The May 20 joint meeting will be held at 5 p.m. at East Manatee Fire Rescue’s administrative building, 3200 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., Lakewood Ranch.

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