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East County Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020 6 months ago

Safety agencies plan for rapid growth in Lakewood Ranch area over next decade

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Sheriff's Office wants LWR area to be its own district while more firehouses are on the way.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

Officials of the East Manatee Fire Rescue District and Manatee County Sheriff’s Office said they are prepared to deal with the growth occurring in the greater Lakewood Ranch area and will maintain that status through the next 10 years.

Longtime East Manatee Fire Rescue Commissioner Garry Lawson said East Manatee has already been implementing its long-range plan and owns outright all the land it needs for future stations.

“There’s a good chance we could have a complete build-out of our district in 10 years, if not sooner,” said Lawson, who has been a fire commissioner for East Manatee Fire Rescue for more than 20 years.

East Manatee Fire Rescue District currently covers 100 square miles, which spans roughly from the Manatee River south to the Sarasota County line and from the Braden River east to County Road 675.

The district is currently under construction of its future Station 7, which is expected to open in May on Covenant Way in Lakewood Ranch.

After that, the district anticipates starting construction on Station 8 near Panther Ridge, at the northeast corner of State Road 70 and the future Bourneside Boulevard. It is tentatively slated for construction to start in fiscal year 2021. The district already owns land for the final station, Station 9, which would be built near the southwest corner of Dam Road and State Road 64. Construction for that station is anticipated in fiscal year 2024.

“A lot of that depends on growth,” East Manatee’s Deputy Chief William Hall said of the timing.

Each station would require hiring 12 more firefighters, Hall said.

East Manatee and the Myakka City Fire Control District are also talking about a merger. The issue will go before voters in Myakka during an August referendum. If approved, the Myakka district would be dissolved and absorbed by East Manatee. Its boundaries would extend by 230 square miles to run east to the Desoto and Hardee county lines, roughly between just north of S.R. 64 and south to the Sarasota County line.

Lawson said the district does not anticipate that the addition of Myakka territory, if approved, would require the construction of additional stations within the next 10 years.

Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells says he hopes to get 20 more patrol deputies in the next five years so he can create a new patrol district to cover the Lakewood Ranch area specifically. File photo.

Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells said he expects growth in the greater Lakewood Ranch area to continue over the next decade, and he envisions the Sheriff’s Office will be able to create a new policing district. Currently, patrol deputies in the Sheriff’s Office’s District 5 cover the Parrish and Lakewood Ranch areas, though Wells would like to split the district in two to have a group of deputies specifically dedicated to the greater Lakewood Ranch area.

“Within five years, I would love for that to be a true district,” he said. “I want to praise what the [county] commissioners have done. They’ve given us 30 deputies in the last three years. If I could get 20 more positions in the next two to four years, then we can really start thinking seriously about making that district.”

Wells said the addition of a substation at the corner of Palmbrush Trail and S.R. 70 has been an asset for the community and for deputies patrolling the area. Residents can go there to ask questions or file police reports.

“We know that volume [at that office] is going to increase,” Wells said. “People need the same service we give other areas of the county.”

Wells also said he expects more county services, such as the Sheriff’s Office, will head eastward over the next decade because of the population’s eastward shift.

He said the future county park site north of Premier Sports Campus possibly could be home to the Sheriff’s Office’s main campus or a larger substation that could accommodate more deputies from both the east and north districts. 

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