SEMINOLE — A county plan to close one fire station and merge it with another less than a mile away left legislators bewildered about how the plan would affect taxpayers.
The stations provide overlapping service, county officials say. Closing one will save EMS money because the remaining station has the staff to answer the calls. County officials also say the move could save most taxpayers money in the long run.
The proposal, which Pinellas officials estimate will save about $1.2-million a year overall, is to close Station 28 at 13501 94th Ave. N in the unincorporated Oakhurst area. The Pinellas Suncoast Fire District runs Station 28.
Station 28's duties would be taken over by Fire Station 31, also in the unincorporated Oakhurst area less than a mile away. Station 31 belongs to the county, which contracts with the city of Seminole to run the station. As part of the switch, the county wants to shrink the Suncoast Fire District and expand the Seminole Fire District.
The county has already withdrawn EMS funding from Station 28, effective Oct. 1, 2009. Now it wants to change the district lines, but it needs an okay from legislators because the move involves changing state law.
During a meeting of the Pinellas Legislative Delegation on Wednesday, the concept fell flat when county staff members tried to explain the savings. In the end, it sounded as if property taxes would go up if Station 28 was closed, a result that county staffers and Seminole fire Chief Dan Graves said was not the case.
"It is definitely confusing," said Rep. Jim Frishe, R-St. Petersburg. "I would recommend another run at it."
The delegation is not scheduled to vote on the issue until its January meeting.