Chris Krajic, Longboat Key Fire Rescue’s deputy chief, said he and his colleagues are accustomed to getting things done right away.
“We’re in emergency services,” he smiled, sitting at his desk at the Key’s north station.
Krajic is referring to plans to renovate both the north and south fire stations on Longboat Key, projects he said he would like to see begin “as soon as is feasibly possible.”
Fire Rescue Chief Paul Dezzi had originally hoped to present up to $2 million worth of renovation options to the Town Commission last month, but the plans remain in limbo.
Dezzi’s plan for the north station, which he expects will cost between $450,000 and $500,000, includes building gender-specific locker rooms and sleeping quarters, as well as hardening the station to withstand a Category 4 hurricane.
The plan for the south station, which was built more than 30 years ago, is more ambitious. It includes all of the same renovations as the north building, plus the additions of a quarantine room and a bedroom for trainees, as well as relocating the fitness center.
The plan raises an important question.
“The bottom line is the cost,” Dezzi said. “Do we need a new firehouse or can we live with a remodel?”
Dezzi estimates remodeling the south station would cost between $1.5 million and $1.7 million while a brand-new building could cost upwards of $2.5 million.
Dezzi met with Town Manager Dave Bullock, Assistant Town Manager Mike Hein and Public Works Director Juan Florensa last month to discuss the plans.
Hein said town staff will go to the commission with a plan for renovating the stations before the start of the budget process, but there is no set date yet. Hein said he wants to make sure any outstanding issues in the plan are settled, like whether the doors and generators of the stations will be accounted for in the final cost.
“We want to make sure it’s inclusive of any and all costs,” Hein said. “The last thing we want is to think we have everything settled, then ‘Yeah, but …’”
As to whether the south station will be rebuilt or remodeled, Hein said town staff is working to determine which option works best.
“I have long been taught that, until a decision is made, everything lies in the realm of possibilities,” Hein said. “At this point, you can’t rule anything out.”
Florensa held that, due to costs, he thinks town management is leaning toward a remodel for the south station.
“A rebuild would be substantial,” he said.
Dezzi plans to meet with Bullock, Hein and Florensa again next week to finalize the plan so it can be brought before the commission in March.
Krajic, who has been deputy chief at the north station for two years, emphasized that ensuring both stations can withstand a Category 4 is vital.
“You need a place to come back to,” Krajic said.
Krajic added that making sleeping quarters and dressing rooms gender-specific is important in providing firefighters with a sense of privacy.
“It’s just something that makes good common sense,” Krajic said.
Longboat Key Mayor Terry Gans affirmed that it’s important that both stations are completely operational, but will wait to make any decision about the renovations until he sees the analysis by town staff.