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Beach Fire looks to consolidate buildings

February 5, 2014
By BOB PETCHER ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Beach Fire officials have a plan in place to improve safety -involving a turnaround for fire vehicles at one station- and to reduce costs -by consolidating headquarter operations from two buildings to one.

On Jan. 28, the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District commissioners were updated on the status of how to make both objectives a reality.

For both situations, projects involve the expansion of Fire Station #32 at 17891 San Carlos Blvd. A Beach Fire official has prepared a functionality and feasibility study to look at apparatus turnaround, parking lot expansion and relocation of its headquarters at that station. If the latter is possible, fire officials would entertain the idea of selling its current fire administration building at 100 Voorhis St.

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Beach Fire officials are looking to sell one of the District's four buildings and acquire a deed on state property to relocate its headquarters, expand on parking lot capacity and gain an apparatus turnaround at Station #32 on San Carlos Boulevard.

Assistant Chief Tom May has made consolidation a priority as part of his initial assessment since being hired in March 2013. He has received a preliminary agreement from Florida Department of Transportation to use some of its land to the right of Fire Station #32 via a deed.

"Everyone knows it's cheaper to maintain three facilities versus four facilities," said May.

Boulton Construction and Gora/McGahey Associates In Architecture will now meet with Lee County Development Review officials as well as South Florida Water Management District and FDOT to discuss permit requirements regarding property use at that proposed combined site at the station and the some of the nearby state-owned storm water detention area. The meeting will involve an informal pre-application process, the deeded property, property appraiser's office for the joining of two parcels, surface water modification management and a development order.

"This is the first time of this nature that something has come up for the County due to the fact that this property is owned by the state DOT. This has never happened where the state DOT has utilized property for another use," said Boulton Construction's Brian Sullivan.

Gora/McGahey officials will provide the point of contact leadership, according to Dan McGahey. Once the project is approved, the process will include an architectural feasibility study (reported to be $6,950) and estimated cost analysis before design and construction.

Since it was stated that there will be no cost afforded to the District for the pre-meeting, the Fire Board unanimously approved to have its consultants meet with the appropriate County and state personnel.

According to May's feasibility report to Fire Chief Darren White, the apparatus turnaround is needed due to limited space and the requirements of a vehicle to have a 35-foot turning radius into the station bays. Currently, Station #32's engine and ambulance must do a choreographed backing maneuver on a limited 42-foot apron. A solution for safety sake is to have the availability for the apparatus to drive through the station.

"We've had one accident and several near-misses," he said.

The project also involves fitting offices onto the third floor of Station #32, which currently houses the Fire Prevention Bureau and Information Technology. May made sure that facilities' staff personnel could fit into the available space at Station #32.

"I gathered some information as to the square footage of our administration building versus the square footage of the third floor and did some preliminary sketches to see if we could fit in there. It looks like it does," he said.

According to May, occupancy cost to run the administration building is roughly $53,000.

Both Century 21 TriPower Realty and VIP Realty have given Real Estate evaluations of the administration building at no cost to Beach Fire and its taxpayers. The agencies provided potential listing pricings, ranging from $253,000 to $422,000 to sell as a commercial office building.

For that approach to happen, a re-zoning may be needed from the Town of Fort Myers Beach. That could take up to eight months.

"We may need a re-zoning petition to get the property re-zoned from a fire control district-only zoning to commercial plan potential for office space or medical building," said May. "The other restriction we have with the building is the limitation on the parking. It meets the city's parking restrictions, but there is not that much parking for (customers/patients)."

All in all, consolidation of administration personnel under one roof is seen as a plus.

"From my standpoint, having administration under the same roof instead of being in two separate facilities where we have a breakdown in some communications is a better way to do business," said May.



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