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Oldsmar trades park for firehouse

The city finally approves a new fire station, but only after cutting costs by putting plans for a park on hold.

Plans for the city's new fire station are back on track after a two-month delay caused when some City Council members balked at the cost of designing the project.

But to get council approval, the city staff will have to lop off $20,000 that would have been spent to design a community park promised to residents.

In December fire officials told council members that architectural fees to design the project on Pine Avenue were $190,165. The project included a 12,500-square-foot fire station, a slice of roadway and a community park beside the new station.

Some council members later told the city staff to find ways to cut the cost. At a meeting Tuesday, the council voted to go ahead with the project, but only after taking park plans out of the package.

"I would just prefer to have (the park) as a separate entity," council member Ed Manny said. "I think we have a distraction with it, and it bothers me being in there."

But council member Ed Richards pleaded with his colleagues to leave the plans for the park intact because council members repeatedly have promised a park to residents who live north of Tampa Road. The proposed park would have been the city's first on that side of town.

"We promised . . . and we should stick with our promise," Richards said. "We are shortchanging people."

Manny proposed removing the park design from the project, and Mayor Jeff Sandler and council member Jerry Provenzano supported his motion.

Richards and council member Babe Wright voted against removing the park design.

Sandler said council members are not backing off their commitment to build a park north of Tampa Road. A park eventually will be built, just not with the fire station project, he said.

Sandler argued that it makes more sense to hold off until the city's parks master plan is completed. City officials agreed in November to hire a consultant to come up with a parks and recreation master plan detailing what park facilities the city needs, where they should be built and what recreational programs are needed.

"The real issue is do you want to do it now or do you want to wait until the parks master plan is done," Sandler said.

City Manager Bruce Haddock said a planned basketball court most likely will survive the cut and still be built along with the station.

The city has budgeted more than $1.6-million for the fire station project on the east side of Pine Avenue N, about 800 feet north of Tampa Road. The city plans to spend $1.5-million on the fire station and $135,000 for the road connecting Pine Avenue N to Bayview Boulevard.

The project was scheduled to be completed in February 2001. But delays in finishing a contract with the architectural firm chosen by firefighters have pushed the completion date to late 2001, said fire Chief Scott McGuff. Construction is scheduled to begin by the end of the year.

Because the city most likely will design and build a park north of Tampa Road, the city probably isn't saving much money in the long run by chopping the park's design cost from the fire station project, Sandler acknowledged Wednesday.

"It will just come in a different form," he said. "I think that is part of the reason why we were so shocked, is I think we probably underestimated what it would take to build a station. It was a lot more expensive than we realized. I know it was a lot more than I realized."

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