ZEPHYRHILLS — After months of discussion on the fate of flood-damaged Fire Station No. 2, city officials have decided to move forward with renovations.
Council member Manny Funes said he wanted to see the firefighters back in the station as soon as possible.
"This has been embarrassing," Funes said at the council meeting Monday evening. "I'm out in the public, and people are shaking their fingers at me all the time, asking me what we are doing to move this project forward."
City Manager Steve Spina laid out two renovation options for the council. The first option — which the council ultimately chose — was to put in a new ceiling, a new floor, new walls, a new air-conditioning system and new ductwork. The second option was to gut the building and start over inside the existing shell without getting "too fancy."
"Option one is the cheapest and easiest," Spina said.
The council went with the first option by a vote of 4-1.
Council member Kenneth Compton cast the dissenting vote. Spina had told the council that an unnamed entity might be willing to donate a half-acre less than a mile from downtown for a new station. Compton wanted to wait a few weeks to see whether that donation might happen.
"It's not like the (firefighters) are in tents," Compton said. "The city has put some money into the barracks."
Compton said the chance of receiving donated land, combined with possible grant funding the staff is researching, could bring substantial savings.
"I think we're talking about $250,000 base minimum for the renovations," he said. "I'd rather use that to build a new station."
Mayor Cliff McDuffie advised the council to vote for the phased renovations and look at the donated land and possible grants at another time. The other council members agreed.
Sid Pomp, a local general contractor who worked on the city's water park, urged the city to hire local workers for the job.
"I would like the city to consider a referendum or seek out local contractors and business owners to serve the cities and county of Pasco County," Pomp said. "There are businesses closing their doors all over the place."
Later in the meeting, Spina said it is the council's responsibility to accept the lowest bid in most situations, regardless of where a contractor is located.
Pomp implored the council to use city workers to demolish the interior of Station No. 2 to save money, which council president Jodi Wilkeson said the council already was considering.