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East County fire district ready for growth

East Manatee Fire Rescue budgets for design of new fire station.

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  • | 8:40 a.m. September 27, 2017
  • East County
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Christine Seaman and her family moved into the Panther Ridge community in 2010 for its more rural lifestyle.

But that lifestyle also means more distance from emergency services. Seaman is not complaining, but she is excited the East Manatee Fire Rescue District has advanced plans for Station 7, to be located on a 6-acre parcel on the north side of State Road 70, about three miles east of Lorraine Road.

“I definitely think it’s needed,” Seaman said. “With all this growth, it’ll be a great support for the community to have emergency services so close. We do have a range of ages in here, just to have that closer response time would be helpful.”

On Sept. 14, East Manatee Rescue’s fire commissioners adopted a fiscal year 2017-2018 budget that includes $250,000 for the engineering and design of Station 7. The money comes from impact fees.

Commissioners expect to fund construction the following fiscal year, but timing largely will depend on new development east of Lorraine Road, East Manatee Fire Chief Lee Whitehurst said.

Development of the Lakewood National Golf and Country Club project, a 1,199-home community immediately west of Panther Ridge, will be the catalyst because its construction will dictate development of the future Bourneside Boulevard. The road will run along the easternmost boundary of Lakewood Ranch from State Road 70 north through the project.

Station 7 will be on the east side of that roadway on a roughly 6-acre parcel fronting State Road 70. East Manatee will wait to engineer the project so that it knows where water lines and other utilities will be located and can plan accordingly.

“This fiscal year, if the road is coming in at the right time, bringing water and sewer access, then we know to begin the engineering of the station,” Whitehurst said. “That will help us decide. We can’t really get started until that road is figured out.”

How much capital is needed for the actual construction of the station will be determined by its size and design.

Fire Commissioner Don O’Leary, a retired New York City fireman, said he hopes to build Station 7 to have five bays for trucks, rather than the more standard two or three bays, but it will be a decision of the fire commission.

“You never build for today. You build for tomorrow,” he said.

The station may not immediately need that much space, but as the area continues to grow, it will. Plus, additional bays would reserve space for a truck specific to brushfires or for an ambulance.

“You’ve got to be prepared for that. I’d rather have extra space now,” O’Leary said. “I’m thinking when all those homes are built, it will be busy out there.”

Regardless of the size, the station will require about nine new firefighters — three per shift — after it opens. Whitehurst said employees showed  leadership and commitment during responses to Hurricane Irma and other recent flooding events in East County. He said there now will be more opportunities for advancement.

“I’m really proud of what these guys have been doing,” he said. “Everybody has stepped up and is giving their all.”

East Manatee expects the number of new homes in East County to support staffing Station 7 within two years. Whitehurst also expects construction of Station 8, planned for property off State Road 64 near Rye Road, will follow close behind.


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