KENNETH CITY — Mayor Pro Tem Teresa Zemaitis has brokered a deal with Pinellas Park to provide Kenneth City's fire service, as long as both city councils agree.
A final agreement could come later this week. The Kenneth City Council is scheduled to discuss the agreement at its Wednesday meeting, and it is on Thursday's Pinellas Park agenda.
A decision needs to be made quickly. The contract with the Lealman Fire District is scheduled to end Feb. 28.
Fire service has been a heated issue in Kenneth City since September when the Lealman fire board voted to terminate its contract with Kenneth City. The board was angry because the town had annexed parcels out of the Lealman Fire District. Lealman had provided fire service to Kenneth City since 1996 when the town disbanded its department.
Zemaitis said the fire board's action was a chance to explore other options.
If the agreement, which would cost Kenneth City taxpayers slightly more, is approved, residents will see the words "Kenneth City" on the side of a firetruck for the first time in years.
The lettering would help identify the truck as the vehicle that Pinellas Park would station in town. The fire engine and at least three firefighters/emergency medical technicians for each shift would operate out of Kenneth City's former fire station, 4600 58th St. N, across the parking lot from the Police Department.
Pinellas Park would charge Kenneth City about $212,290 for the first year of the 10-year contract. The price would increase 3 percent each year for the next four years. After that, the two would negotiate payments for the final five years of the contract.
That cost would be about $3,600 more during the first year of the contract than Lealman would have charged.
Under the proposal, Pinellas Park would repair Kenneth City's former fire station at a cost of about $50,000. That would be paid off in $5,000-a-year increments that would be added to the overall cost of fire service.
Pinellas Park spokesman Tim Caddell said Pinellas Park taxpayers will not suffer.
"We're not charging them less than we're charging our own people," Caddell said. "It's a fair deal."
Caddell was alluding to the Lealman contract, which has been controversial within the district because it charged Kenneth City less than it charged Lealman residents. The district argued that it had to give Kenneth City a break or it would contract with another agency but still force Lealman to continue running the calls as the first responder.
Under Pinellas Park's proposal, it would become the first responder, and Lealman would answer only if the engine was busy on another call or needed help.
That's the reverse of what happens now — Lealman is the first responder and Pinellas Park acts as a backup.
Anne Lindberg can be reached at (727) 893-8450 or firstname.lastname@example.org.