ZEPHYRHILLS — The City Council voted unanimously Monday evening to repeal an ordinance that required the installation of automatic fire sprinklers in commercial buildings and multifamily dwellings.
Fire Chief Keith Williams, who opposed the repeal, said not requiring the sprinklers will put downtown buildings in danger. He has argued that fires cost the city more than it may seem, noting that once a building is damaged by fire, the owners often move on instead of rebuilding or picking a new site in the city.
City Manager Steve Spina said the chief and city staff are working on a proposal to provide incentives for building owners to install sprinklers without an ordinance requiring it.
The council also revisited the option of expanding Fire Station No. 1 instead of renovating the flood-damaged Fire Station No. 2. Members voted unanimously to put the renovation on hold until they receive more information.
Spina said expanding Fire Station No. 1 may save money across the board. He said city staff and Collman & Karsky, the firm drawing up the plans for the renovation of Fire Station No. 2, will work on a comparison of the two options.
Spina said it may be a choice between expanding the current station all at once or rebuilding the downtown station in stages.
"We could redesign the station with potential projects that could be deleted or delayed," Spina said.
Council president Jodi Wilkeson said she felt torn, because the council promised taxpayers the renovations would move forward.
"I would be embarrassed if I had to go back to the taxpayers and backpedal," Wilkeson said.
The council also revisited the discussion of whether to continue using Pasco County Animal Services. The city paid $60,000 to the county this past year for animal control services, but the county has told some residents to trap animals themselves and bring them to the Land O'Lakes shelter.
Council member Manny Funes has recommended hiring Tim Wilcox for $38,000 to serve as the city's animal control officer under the code enforcement department. Wilcox currently traps nuisance animals for the city on a contract basis. Funes also wants to see whether Dade City and San Antonio would be interested in entering into an agreement to share Wilcox's services, which he said would save the city even more money.
"The economy's tight, and if we can save money, more than half, I think we should do it," Funes said.
Spina said the county told him its fees will probably go down this year. He said this may mean the quality of service will go down as well.
Spina said if the city does create a city position for animal trapping, it will have to be advertised so that interested applicants can come forward.
The council members — minus Wilkeson, who was not in attendance at the moment — voted unanimously to prepare the necessary information to move forward with that process.