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Hillsborough County Commission votes against Fletcher Avenue fire station plans

LAKE MAGDALENE — A once-controversial plan to build a new fire station next to Hamner Tower Park is dead.

With county revenues falling and layoffs looming, Hillsborough County officials want to spend the money earmarked to buy the land on Fire Rescue operating costs instead.

The 1.7 acres is at the northwest corner of Fletcher Avenue and N Boulevard, just south of the park. By backing out of a contract to buy the land, the county forfeited a $25,000 deposit.

Officials also say the Fletcher Avenue station is no longer needed. That's because three fire stations that opened during 2006 in Northdale, on Ehrlich Road and at U.S. 41 and Chapman Road all have helped improve response times in the Lake Magdalene area.

In urban areas like Lake Magdalene, county firefighters have a goal of responding to calls within 6 minutes at least 62 percent of the time. Currently, the county averages 6.2 minutes responding to calls near Lake Magdalene and arrives in less than 6 minutes 55 percent of the time.

"This area is not being jeopardized," Hillsborough Fire-Rescue Chief William Nesmith said.

Attorney Robert S. Wise, who had a contract to sell the 1.7 acres to the county, said the area near Lake Magdalene still needs its own fire station. Wise said he had an expert in information systems at Carnegie Mellon University analyze the county's response times for the area. While firefighters arrived within 5 minutes 38 percent of the time, 6.2 percent of the time they took more than 10 minutes to respond, he said.

"It's very short-sighted of the county to do this," Wise said after the vote. "It's going to cost more in the long run."

But the fire station concerned some neighbors who worried about encroachments on Hamner Tower Park, which one resident described as a long-standing animal and bird sanctuary and a beautiful place that people had banded together to preserve. Residents who attended last week's hearing welcomed the commission's vote.

"I was never in support of that location at all, and I am very thrilled that this is taking place," said Anna Arcuri, who lives on Sylvia Lane, just west of the park.

County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan, who voted against killing the deal along with Commissioner Al Higginbotham, was not persuaded. Hagan said he understood delaying plans to build new stations that the county could not afford to staff.

"What I don't understand is aborting plans for a station that has been identified as being needed since, I think, going back to 2000," he said.

Richard Danielson can be reached at Danielson@sptimes.com or (813) 269-5311.

Hillsborough County Commission votes against Fletcher Avenue fire station plans 07/15/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 23, 2009 1:29pm]

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