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St. Pete City Council backs push for new fire station

Margie Manning

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St. Petersburg Fire Engine 2 (Photo credit: Twitter)

The St. Petersburg City Council wants to find a new home for a fire station currently located in a residential home in the western part of the city.

Council members approved a resolution calling on the city administration to include funding for land acquisition for Fire Station 2 in the budget for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.

The fire station is currently located in a rental home at 3100 66th St. N., a situation that Council member Robert Blackmon said is not a good long-term scenario.

“It’s on a major commercial street. The driveway is way too small. The firetruck has to slowly back in. The facilities are not adequate,” said Blackmon, who authored the resolution that was approved at the July 9 council meeting.

Six of the eight council members said at a January meeting that finding a new site for the station was a priority. However, land acquisition funding was not included in $673 million operating budget or the $120 million capital improvements plan proposed by Mayor Rick Kriseman’s administration.

During the July 9 meeting, Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin said the administration is taking into account other public safety needs.

“That’s not to say it’s not a priority of ours,” Tomalin said. “It’s working its way through our process to identify resources and to make an adequate strategic plan to serve the city’s best interest for the longest time and in the most comprehensive way.”

St. Petersburg’s Fire Station 2 currently is located in a residential rental home at 3100 66th St. N.

The current facility is not safe, said Rick Pauley, president of the St. Petersburg Association of Firefighters Local 747, which represents 300 city firefighters. In emailed comments to the City Council, Pauley said Engine 2 has been hit twice by other vehicles on 66th Street.

A traffic light will be installed soon on 66th Street at the station that should improve safety, said Fire Chief James Large. He urged council members not to rush to find a permanent home for Fire Station 2, which has been in the rental home since March 2017.

City officials have warned that the budget for fiscal year 2021 will be tight because of a projected drop in revenue due to the Covid-19 crisis. Tomalin said including money to pay for a land purchase for Fire Station 2 likely would mean another project wouldn’t get funded.

In an interview with the St. Pete Catalyst, Blackmon said the pandemic makes this a “perfect time” to buy land for a new station.

“Right now commercial real estate is in a very precarious situation. Real estate values have tumbled, everyone feels less well off and now is a good time to negotiate to get the best price for the taxpayers,” he said.

He did not have a specific figure in mind for a land purchase, saying he would leave that to the city’s real estate department to negotiate. But he said the fire station should remain on 66th Street.

“That station is the closest fire station to Tyrone Square Mall and to a large commercial shopping and retail corridor. If a fire occurred in that area, you want the best station to deal with it. For a big commercial area, it’s important we have a top of the line station that can adequately handle the situation,” Blackmon said.

On Thursday, the City Council is scheduled to set a date for public hearing on the FY 2021 budget, and to adopt the proposed millage rate necessary to fund the budget.

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