SEBRING — Highlands County Fire Rescue moved closer Tuesday morning to completing another two fire stations on opposite ends of the county.
Two hearings to change the zoning and land use for a parcel by the Highlands Lakes Fire Department passed the Board of County Commission without debate or much discussion. However, an interlocal agreement with the town of Lake Placid to put a new fire station on a three-acre parcel at 619 Hillcrest Ave. drew ire from an out-of-town resident whose post office box is on the other end of that road.
“That’s an accident waiting to happen,” said Beth Degnan, resident of Highland Park Estates. “That’s the worst place for a fire house.”
Highlands County Public Safety Director and Highlands County Fire Rescue Chief Marc Bashoor begged to differ. He said it was actually the safest location of the ones the county considered, and considerably safer than the current site.
Aside from having logistic issues with three separate buildings for the sleeping quarters, trucks and ambulances, respectively, the current Lake Placid Fire Department site sits on a side street off Interlake Boulevard between DeVane Circle and Main Avenue.
Bashoor has said that getting out has been difficult and dangerous, with traffic crossing from downtown going west and buses from nearby Lake Placid schools, heading east.
Last year, when the county and town originally laid out the interlocal agreement, Bashoor said the county chose to close that location and get “out of the quagmire.”
That property will go back to the town, and the town’s property on Hillcrest — previously planned for a new town hall — would then become a new fire station.
Commissioner Arlene Tuck, previously Lake Placid town council member, said people should thank the town for the clear trade of three acres of land.
“That’s quite a chunk,” Tuck said.
“Think back to this meeting when you have problems with (this new) fire house,” Degnan said.
Meanwhile, the two hearings to change land use and zoning on land for a new Highlands Lakes station passed easily.
The 0.6-acre lot at 2800 Highlands Blvd. was transformed from residential use/zoning to public use/zoning.
Bashoor told the Highlands News-Sun he plans for an approximate 9,000-square-foot facility there and at the Lake Placid site. He has tentative blueprints, but needs those approved, as well.
Commissioner Ron Handley asked Tuesday if the county didn’t need to have a unity of title for the lots that make up the half-acre parcel. Dana Riddell, planning tech, told him that would occur once they erect the building.
Handley, a contractor by trade, said he didn’t see how that would work, but conceded the question to ask about Bashoor’s plans for the old building.
“In the short term, we’ll use it,” Bashoor said from the audience. “In the long term, we’ll tear it down.”
Bashoor said it got damaged twice by hurricanes and needs to be replaced.