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Volunteers resurrect dilapidated V.M. Ybor fire station for Tampa police bomb squad

Hailey Simons, 5, and her grandmother, Sandy Simons, check out the Andros F6-B robot bomb disposal unit Wednesday at the opening of the Tampa Police Department bomb squad’s operations center in the V.M. Ybor neighborhood. The 13 Ugly Men group gathered donations and volunteers to turn the dilapidated fire station into the bomb squad’s headquarters.

KATHLEEN FLYNN | Times

Hailey Simons, 5, and her grandmother, Sandy Simons, check out the Andros F6-B robot bomb disposal unit Wednesday at the opening of the Tampa Police Department bomb squad’s operations center in the V.M. Ybor neighborhood. The 13 Ugly Men group gathered donations and volunteers to turn the dilapidated fire station into the bomb squad’s headquarters.

TAMPA

No one wanted Tampa Fire Station No. 2.

The fire department left it after it was labeled uninhabitable in 2000. The city tried to sell it, but no one was buying.

So police Maj. Sophie Teague seized the opportunity to give the bomb squad a place to call its own. The renovated firehouse was unveiled by police Chief Jane Castor Wednesday afternoon.

Most of the renovations to the property, which was built in 1925, were paid for with donations collected by a local non-profit group called 13 Ugly Men. Sponsors chipped in money, volunteers and services to revitalize the crumbling building on the corner of N 12th Street in the V.M Ybor neighborhood.

Besides housing the bomb squad's equipment and a training room, the building has corrals where mounted patrols that work the Ybor City area can rest.

"A lot of the credit for this goes to the 13 Ugly Men," Castor said. "They brought in the companies, volunteers and donations to make this project possible."

Teague acquired the building for the Police Department's use from the city after it was taken off the market. With the city's limited funds, that's as far as she could take it.

Luckily, the charitable group stepped in.

Don Nurnberger, 43, heard about the needs from his friend, Sgt. Jarrett Seal of the bomb squad, and decided the Ugly Men would take it on.

His group had helped both the Police Department and Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office get canine officers.

"At first I thought it was a project that was too big for us," Nurnberger said.

Castor said pipes crumbled in the hands of workers during the renovation, and the building had to be fitted with new plumbing. It took six weeks to paint.

The Ugly Men drafted a host of community sponsors to provide funding, volunteers and services to whip the eyesore into shape.

Now the upstairs training area has sparkling wood flooring. Retired officers built the corral. And the bomb robot Andros F6-B has room to roam.

Most importantly, the V.M. Ybor community has another contact point with the police. The community was plagued with at least 20 arsons in two years.

Since Tampa police took over the investigation in June 2010, two arrests have been made.

"They are probably the best neighbor we could have in this area of V.M. Ybor," said Kim Headland, the neighborhood association president.

She explained that the renovation is just one part of a revitalization that has been coming together in the past decade.

"Of course we had some setbacks with the arsons, but we've actually seen some slow steady investment in the area," she said.

Up next is an interior design studio slated for a worn-out, older building across the street.

The increased presence of Tampa police only strengthens the area, Castor said.

"This is just another asset for the V.M Ybor neighborhood," she said. "This just shows what can be done when we all roll our sleeves up."

Volunteers resurrect dilapidated V.M. Ybor fire station for Tampa police bomb squad 11/30/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 30, 2011 10:17pm]
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