Sun 'n Lake seeks county fire services
Marc Valero | Highlands TodaySEBRING - The Sun 'n Lake Fire Department has been responding to emergencies since the 1960s, but it could be making its last call in a matter of months after the district board of supervisors voted unanimously Friday to seek fire service from the county and the West Sebring Volunteer Fire Department.
Published: February 8, 2013
Published: February 8, 2013
Sun 'n Lake of Sebring Improvement District General Manager Michael Wright said the district will now negotiate with West Sebring VFD and the county to expand the West Sebring Department to include Sun 'N Lake.
"It's a service issue," he said. 'It's not that the guys we have don't do a good job. It's that they only do a good job eight hours a day."
Currently the Sun 'n Lake Fire Department has an unusal circumstance with part-time paid employees, from other fire departments, who work eight hours a day, Wright said. The other 16 hours in the day the department relies on those paid people to be volunteers.
"The reality is we don't have enough folks to answer calls after hours," he said. The district considered going to a full-time department like Avon Park or Sebring, but has been in discussions off and on for about a year with the West Sebring VFD.
The county commission would have to agree to it because West Sebring is a dependent district, Wright said. He believes it would have to be done by June 30 so it could go on the tax bills by November.
The board of supervisors' vote took the department by surprise.
Lt. Craig Marans said, "I just got back from bomb training this week in New Mexico for this department."
He believed the board was just going to discuss the issue and not vote on it, he said.
"It has taken me by storm because when you put a lot of time and effort into something and you try to do good … ," Marans said. Management didn't want to listen to money-saving plans and plans with the current budget to man the fire station 24/7.
The department has 14 part-time firefighters and a handful of volunteers, who work full-time as firefighters in other departments so they have a lot of experience, Marans said. Currently the station is manned 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., seven days a week.
It will affect the response time to the doctors' offices, the hospital and other businesses because people have to drive to the West Sebring Volunteer Fire Department station to get the truck when Sun 'N Lake firefighters are already there at the fire station at 5306 Sun 'n Lake Boulevard, he said.
"I worry for the district," Marans said. "We put a lot of time and effort into this department and it's really sad."
The switch from the Sun 'n Lake Department to the county will likely result in a $7 reduction in the annual fire assessment for a single-family dwelling in the Sun 'N Lake Improvement District
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