ENGLEWOOD — Islanders who live on Don Pedro and Knight islands will get some say on where they’d like to see their new fire station.
Charlotte County will hold a special town hall meeting to get input and present proposed locations for a new Station 10 on the bridge-less barrier islands. The county provides fire and emergency medical service from the Palm Island Resort south to the Don Pedro State Park.
The meeting is set for Monday at the Englewood Chamber of Commerce, 601 N. Indiana Ave. Englewood. Exhibits will be available for the public at 10:30 a.m., and there will be a presentation at 11 a.m. (County officials had first scheduled this meeting for another location.)
County staff has identified several alternatives for the new fire station, including a new building on the same site as the current fire station. County commissioners are expected to make a final decision on the site at their April 6 meeting.
Fire protection and emergency medical care on the islands has always been a challenge. Ambulances still have to be ferried onto the island. For years, islanders had been served by volunteer firefighters. They paid for an island fire station, trucks and other equipment through a special tax.
But in 2011, the volunteer department dissolved when it no longer could find enough people to train and devote time to the department.
At first, the Englewood Area Fire Control District took over the station house on the islands with full-time and volunteer firefighters. In 2014, Charlotte County took over fire protection, manning the station with two full-time firefighters per shift, 24 hours a day and seven days per week. The station is now equipped with a Class A fire engine, mini-pumper and a tanker truck.
The island property owners pay for fire protection through a special taxing unit. Developed residential properties pay an annual assessment of $717.67 per unit, while commercial properties pay 93 cents per square foot.
The existing station has long outlived its usefulness. It had been built as a two-story home that was remodeled to serve as a fire house. County project manager Gary Burdahl said the structure no longer meets contemporary codes, including ADA requirements, and it just “needs a lot of work.”
Design for the new fire house is scheduled to begin in August.
The project is expected to cost $398,757 for the design and another $3.2 million for construction. The county will pay for the project out of its countywide capital funding. If the county builds the new station at another location, it will have to buy the property separately, Burdahl said.
Demolishing and rebuilding a new station on the existing property poses its own challenges, such as relocating firefighters and their equipment to a temporary location during construction.
The public is welcome at the planning meeting.