Vero Lake Estates residents lose bid to be listed for fire station

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – The Board of County Commissioners ignored the request of Vero Lake Estate residents and refused Tuesday to put together a waiting list of potential locations for fire stations.lThe Vero Lake Estates residents had wanted to be placed no lower than third on the waiting list, but instead the commission voted 3-2 against any sort of ranking with commissioners Wesley Davis and Joe Flescher lobbying for the needs of the north county subdivision. Emergency Services Director John King, who brought forth the request that emanated from a citizen advisory committee, told commissioners that VLE is a mixed bag when it comes to the criteria for getting its own station.”Part of the concern is that they are more than five miles from a station, so their insurance is higher and our response times are nearing 10 minutes, some of the roads are unimproved,” King said. “But we have less than one call for service per 24 hours for the Vero Lake Estates area.”When the neighborhood was newly established, VLE had a robust volunteer fire department made up of active members of the homeowner association. That volunteer department is now defunct, leaving the neighborhood without any fire protection.The county currently has 12 stations, the newest one which opened in Gifford in October. Of the stations, 11 are equipped with an ambulance for transport, but Gifford only has an Advanced Life Support fire engine, which is equipped to provide on-site treatment but not to take patients to the hospital. When a patient needs transport following a call for service from Gifford Station 12, one of the 11 ambulances from the other stations must be called in.Commissioners who voted against creating the list wanted to err on the side of caution, considering there is no money in the budget for new fire stations and they don’t know what future growth patterns may develop when new firehouses might again be a consideration.Commissioner Gary Wheeler went so far to say that the discussion was taking a political turn and Davis admitted that different neighborhoods jockeying for a fire station close is very political. “It’s nothing but a list, I don’t understand the danger in a list, it’s not trying to move one ahead of another,” Davis said. “There is a political component to this, but I see a whole lot of consternation here over nothing.”Commissioner Bob Solari said he was opposed to anything which strayed from an objective evaluation process.”In reality, if things stay the same, we may be looking at 10 years out for another station,” Solari said. “As much as it might be nice to set up a list, it might not be meaningful to say where the third station might be.”Davis held his ground that his fellow commissioners were being short sighted.”Fellsmere has just annexed (land) and Sebastian is still growing,” Davis said. “I don’t know of an area that is poised for more residential growth than that corridor.”Davis added that a wish list of sites might enable the county to broker deals for needed land while market conditions are right to do so more cheaply.Wheeler countered that to plan so far ahead with no funds available is unwise.”I understand where Wesley is going and it sounds good but we’re reaching so far out into the future that it doesn’t seem practical,” he said.There is only one station slated to be built in the next five-year capital plan, but there are two locations which King has identified are in the greatest need of a station — based upon calls for service and public protection data analyzed and provided to the county by the Insurance Services Office (ISO). One of those locations, the corner of 4th Street and 43rd Avenue, has been on the ISO recommended list since 1980. The other location is near the corner of State Road 60 and 66th Avenue. Some locations in the south county have been on the list since the early 1990s. ISO determines where the county could build fire stations that would reduce residents’ insurance rates by decreasing the distance from a fire station.The county has been under great pressure from budget hawks, including the Taxpayers Association of Indian River County, to only establish these so-called ALS stations going forward. Not having an ambulance not only saves the estimated $110,000 to purchase the vehicle, but it saves on fuel, tires, maintenance, equipment and, most significantly on the 24-hour per day shifts of firemedics to staff the ambulance. The county saved an estimated $600,000 in the first year by not placing an ambulance at Gifford Station 12.

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