New southern station could be started in 2019, but project requires demolition of 1986 building.
The $1 million renovation of Longboat Key Fire Rescue’s northern fire station could start by the end of the year, with construction of a replacement station on the island’s southern half beginning as early as the first quarter of 2019.
The town is negotiating with Sweet Sparkman Architects of Sarasota to design the north station renovations as well as blueprints for the $4.6 million south station project, which would be around 10,000 square feet, said Town Manager Tom Harmer. The next step would be hiring a construction manager and contractor to build and oversee the project.
The catch to these plans, however, is that a temporary location will be needed for the south station during demolition and construction. The current building at 2162 Gulf of Mexico Drive needs to be razed. That station would be replaced with a one-story building with three truck bays. This portion of the project is estimated to take 12 to 18 months to complete, Harmer said.
Among the initial considerations for temporary quarters:
Moving into an empty storefront at the Shoppes of Bay Isles by the Publix Super Market;
Renting a house; or
Placing a large trailer on land at the former Colony Beach & Tennis Resort.
Fire Chief Paul Dezzi said a decision could be made early next year. In considering a temporary location for the south station, response times and proximity to southern homes and businesses must be considered, he said. The stations are 4.5 miles apart. The nearest other fire station, outside the town, is a county station near St. Armands Circle.
“We have a five-minute response time,” he said.
Other than location, Dezzi said the temporary space must have room for four-to-five firefighters, preferably with bathrooms for each gender.
In March, Longboat Key voters approved a referendum allowing the town to spend up to $5,895,000 to refurbish the northern station, 5940 Gulf of Mexico Drive, and to build a new southern fire station.
“The northern station (built in 1994) is newer and better,” said Harmer, explaining why the south station would be demolished and a new one constructed.
The southern station, built in 1986, has mold issues, does not meet codes for firehouse storage, mechanical systems or energy efficiency. It also has the same entrance for both firefighters and the public, which can interfere with access for both.
Additionally, the building was not designed with male and female firefighters in mind. Four of Longboat’s 33 firefighters are women, Dezzi said. Separate facilities for men and women were not an issue when the town built the south station.
Plans for the northern station, where the department is based, include enhanced locker room facilities, sleeping quarters and kitchen area.
Also, equipment storage spaces in that station would be updated to comply with modern requirements. The station lacks proper exhaust ventilation in its garage.