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Date of Issue: April 08, 2009

Fire district board approves facilities study

The West Manatee Fire and Rescue District board at its March 19 meeting approved a motion to solicit bids for a study of its facilities that could cost the district more than $100,000.

The scope of the study would be to examine what the district has and what it needs presently, and what its needs will be in the future to serve the public and care for firefighters, said WMFR Chief Andy Price.

 “These facilities are more than 20 years old. They weren't built to do what they are doing now," he said.

Price said that 20 years ago there were few personal computers and no Internet technology used by the district. Now, an entire room is needed at each fire station just for computer servers and other equipment. Unfortunately, many of the stations don’t have the space and none were wired for Internet services at the time of construction.

 “We also didn't build to accommodate male and female firefighters. We don’t have separate bunk areas and, at some stations, we don’t have separate bathrooms. These are just some of the issues a facilities study would look at,” he said.

Two years ago, the board rejected as too expensive a $60,000 bid for a similar proposed study. And the scope of work in that study was not as extensive as what will be requested this time, Price said.

However, Price said he hopes the low bid will be less than $100,000, and that there will be some room for negotiation.

He reminded the board that it is not “approving a contract, just the RFP.” The board could ultimately reject any proposal.

But now is the perfect time to have a facilities study done, Price said.

The current federal stimulus package has $210 million in grant money earmarked for construction of new fire stations and remodeling existing structures.

Although the federal government has not yet released the grant guidelines, Price said the study would be “crucial” to a grant application for construction funds.

The board agreed with Price and the vote to solicit bids was unanimous.

The district’s facilities committee will short-list the bids received to three and present those to the board for review and any subsequent action.

Price said the RFP will go out as soon as the district’s legal department gives its approval.

In other business, Price said Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash is still gathering information about consolidating Manatee County Emergency Medical Services into the various fire districts.

“We’re hoping to have something by June,” Price said.

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