City wants to meet on fire contract
By STEVEN N. LEVINE
ncpub@earthlink.net
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DAVENPORT, FL - Davenport firefighters are frustrated, but not inconsolable over the loss of a lucrative Polk County fire protection contract that funded 40 percent of the volunteer company's budget. Volunteer Fire Chief Tony Whitt Tuesday said the department will manage the best it can next year with whatever Davenport council members and residents can provide. Rescinding the contract means the city fire department will essentially be responsible just for the city. "We're not going to close our doors. That's for sure," Whitt said following the regular city board meeting. City council members want a meeting, possibly this month, with county fire service officials who next year plan to take back a portion of a $139,589 fire protection contract. The county has other expenses for the money that's helped fund the small city department for nearly a generation. City Treasurer Paula Munro was unclear exactly how much of the contract and the fire district will be retained by the county after Jan. 1. County fire officials originally said $113,933 would stay in-house next year. They've also suggested pro-rating the contract so Davenport receives its usual first quarter share, Munro said. "They just don't know. That's why we want the meeting," Munro said. The city will probably lose one of the its two day-time paid firefighters as a consequence of the county's decision. The city still intends to buy a new $150,000 attack pumper under a long-term bond. The volunteer department also has a 1999 attack pumper, an aging brush truck and a newly acquired surplus six-wheel drive state Division of Forestry brush truck. Davenport Fire Lt. Bob Wisler said members are disappointed the county is cutting fiscal corners possibly at a cost of safety. The Crestview housing development falls outside the city's zone of responsibility once the county ends that portion of the contract. It's three minutes from Davenport's fire station, but three miles from the closest county fire station in Haines City. The city company is organizing a department auxiliary and could hold boot drives, spaghetti dinners and Bingo tournaments to raise funds, Whitt said. Volunteers are willing to give up a nominal premium paid for responding to emergencies, training and other duties, he said. Twenty-three volunteers are now members with another six to eight expected to join shortly, Whitt said.

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