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Two bid to provide fire service to Kenneth City; third offer could come

KENNETH CITY — This town's council has two proposals on the table from agencies that want to provide fire service to residents.

A third proposal could be in the offing. Kenneth City Mayor Pro Tem Teresa Zemaitis said Wednesday that St. Petersburg has expressed interest in bidding for the contract. But, she said, that city has not found a cost effective way to provide the service. St. Petersburg officials said they have one more idea they want to look at before deciding whether to submit a proposal.

St. Petersburg will have to hurry. The Kenneth City Town Council is scheduled to consider proposals from Lealman and Pinellas Park during its Nov. 18 meeting. A final vote could be made that night, Zemaitis said.

Kenneth City's fire contract came open in late September after Lealman terminated its longstanding agreement with the town. The Lealman Fire Commission was incensed over 10 annexations the town made of property under its jurisdiction. Kenneth City used the high price Lealman charges its residents as a lure to annex into Kenneth City — because the Lealman fire district has given Kenneth City a break on price, the annexing owners could receive the same fire service at a much reduced rate by coming into the town. The net loss to Lealman's tax coffers was about $7,200 a year.

Lealman canceled the contract, but indicated it wanted to renegotiate the terms. In the meantime, Pinellas Park also offered to take over fire service.

The two proposals are similar in many ways: Both would charge Kenneth City a little more than $200,000 a year to provide fire service. Each year of the contract, the price would increase by 3 percent.

But Lealman also wants Kenneth City to pay it the taxes it would have received for four years on any lands it annexed out of the fire district. Although it's too late for Lealman to claim the $7,200 it lost in the recent annexations, had they come under Lealman's new proposal, Kenneth City would have paid the $200,000 base contract price plus $7,200 for four years. Any other annexations would be added to the contract price as they happened.

Lealman has also said that it will go after the taxes on any lands that Kenneth City annexes even if Kenneth City refuses to sign a new contract. Kenneth City town attorney John Elias said he is researching the law to see if Lealman has a claim to that money.

Other than that change, the contract with Lealman would remain much the same. The district would remain the first responder in case of a fire within the town limits. Pinellas Park and other agencies, such as St. Petersburg and Seminole, would come to Lealman's aid in case of fire or if Lealman was unavailable.

Pinellas Park's proposal is a bit different. That city wants to refurbish the former Kenneth City fire station and place a fire truck there staffed with three firefighters who would also be either paramedics or emergency medical technicians. The cost of such repairs is estimated to be no more than $50,000. Kenneth City would repay it in $5,000 a year increments.

That truck would answer fire calls in Kenneth City. If more help was needed, or if the truck was already on a call, backup would come from Pinellas Park, Lealman and other agencies.

Two bid to provide fire service to Kenneth City; third offer could come 10/31/09 [Last modified: Saturday, October 31, 2009 4:31am]

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