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Hillsborough County Fire Rescue comes full circle on Springhead station

PLANT CITY — Hillsborough County Fire Rescue is back where it started.

For months, fire officials and Springhead residents were at odds over a department plan to replace its outdated firehouse at 4503 Coronet Road with a new station on the north side of Trapnell Road a quarter mile west of Nesmith Road.

Residents worried about noise and asked department officials to move the station to a farmer's field a half mile south of Trapnell or to the Springhead Community Center. The backlash sparked five community meetings.

Now the department is back to its first choice, the Trapnell site, and Hillsborough County commissioners are backing the decision. Commissioners approved the department's plans in an unanimous vote last week.

"This is something we've tried to get done since 2007," Chief Ron Rogers said.

Next, the department will finalize the purchase agreement, draft architectural plans and hire a builder. Rogers expects the project to cost about $2 million, including the land purchase. Property records show the site is owned by Hamilton George Maurice, Trustee.

Not everybody is happy about the move. The 9,000-square foot station will sit amid a cluster of homes and fields off Trapnell, Raye Ann Drive and McWetherbee Lane. About a half-dozen houses rim the 5.5-acre site.

"I don't like it there. It's just too close to our homes," said Beverly Stevens, 75, who lives across the street from the proposed station. "You can imagine the noise those trucks will make when they're leaving the station. I'm sure a lot of people don't want it close to their homes."

Fire officials say disagreements with neighbors erupted over the alternate locations as well. The Trapnell site was best suited because of its easy access onto Trapnell and proximity to the Nesmith intersection, they said.

Officials wanted to move the station in 2007, but budget constraints delayed the project. The lot size at Coronet Road is too small to permit an expansion and officials thought that moving south would allow them to better serve the Hopewell and Bealsville areas.

The new station will offer separate bunk rooms for female firefighters, a living and dining room, a kitchen and office space for fire officials. Rogers said firefighters will refrain from using the siren, except when leaving the station when traffic is present.

At least one resident is happy about the move. Deanna Garner, 28, said the relocation will allow her to get fire insurance for her 1940s-era, wood-frame, four-bedroom house.

"It's hard with these old Cracker-style houses to get insurance unless you live within a certain radius of a fire station. We live just outside the radius, so we couldn't get insurance," she said. "Now we'll be able to get insurance."

The station will open in the spring or early summer, Rogers said.

Rich Shopes can be reached at rshopes@tampabay.com or (813) 661-2454.

Hillsborough County Fire Rescue comes full circle on Springhead station 09/29/12 [Last modified: Saturday, September 29, 2012 4:30am]
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