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Palm Harbor ready to roll on fire station work

The papers are signed, the plans are in place and construction on Palm Harbor's fourth fire station could start as soon as today. Fire commissioners Monday set signatures to paper to complete a $500,000 loan from Republic Bank for the new Crystal Beach station. The construction can start.

"I've been ready for two weeks," said Commissioner Norman Atherton, who is overseeing the project. "As soon as the loan is in place and we sign the contract with the contractor, which will be (today), I intend to issue the start work order."

That means firefighters could be working from the new station, west of Alt. U.S. 19 and south of Ulelah Avenue, as soon as June, Atherton said. Although the contract says construction should take 270 days, Atherton said he expects the building to be completed before that.

A fire truck for the new building is on order and nine firefighters will be hired in the spring to cover three shifts, he said.

The new fire station is needed to help the Palm Harbor Special Fire Control District handle the area's explosive growth. The district's population, already more than 50,000 residents, is expected to grow to more than 75,000 by 2000.

When the new fire station is complete, all Palm Harbor residents will be within about three miles of a fire station.

The 10,000-square-foot building will cost about $695,000. The Fire Commission decided to borrow $500,000 of that to ease the impact on taxes. The loan will be paid off over five years.

The decision to borrow the money also eased an expected increase in the tax rate for fiscal 1990-91. A proposed 55 percent increase in the tax rate was cut to a 28 percent increase because of the loan.

"It shouldn't have too much of an effect on the tax rate" in coming years, Commission Chairman Robert E. Marcellus said.

Marcellus said growth and increases in property appraisals will help pay off the loan.

Current volunteers will be given first chance at the new firefighter jobs, Atherton said.