Manalapan to consider backup fire-rescue

Special To The Daily News
Thursday, Dec. 5, 2002

MANALAPAN, FL Town commissioners may take the same road to fire-rescue services as their neighbor to the north. The consensus at a workshop Tuesday was to consider a temporary backup special-assistance contract with Palm Beach County. South Palm Beach approved such an agreement last week. It will be go before Palm Beach County commissioners later this month. The South Palm Beach contract provides for emergency service on a per-call basis to ensure the town meets state regulations. Florida law requires what's referred to as "two in, two out," meaning four firefighters must be at the scene of a fire, allowing for two inside a burning building with two on standby outside.

Manalapan officials also decided Tuesday to invite leaders of nearby municipalities to a meeting on fire-rescue options. Initial plans call for including Lantana, Ocean Ridge and South Palm Beach in the workshop as each community grapples with a long-term solution for emergency services. "Let's get some discussion going," said Mayor Pro Tem Anthony J. Mauro. Lantana provided fire-rescue services for Manalapan until Lantana went with county-supplied service.

The agreement between the two communities expired in 1999. At that point, Manalapan entered into an agreement with South Palm Beach and Ocean Ridge for fire services, while emergency medical services were contracted out. South Palm Beach and Manalapan have a joint agreement with American Medical Response for ambulance service that will expire in 2004. In 2000, South Palm Beach indicated it might end the tri-community fire-rescue arrangement while Ocean Ridge began discussions with Boynton Beach for its fire services. That led Manalapan officials to investigate its options in the event South Palm Beach and Ocean Ridge opted out of the agreement. South Palm Beach officials initially thought they would turn over emergency service coverage to the county. But a decision was delayed while Lantana explores its options in light of a commissioned report by MGT of America, an Atlanta-based consulting firm. In a review of Lantana's emergency services, the consultants indicated a return to town-supplied service would not be feasible unless neighboring communities joined in to share the cost.

The county contract on the table would cost Manalapan nothing unless the town uses the services offered. Fees would range from $2,000 an hour to $7,500 an hour for assistance ranging from engine and rescue service to special operations help. "It's a safety net," Mauro said. The special assistance contract will be on the Wednesday commission agenda. Town Manager Gregory L. Dunham said the joint workshop will be arranged as soon as possible but did not give a date. It seems likely, however, that it will take place after Jan. 1. "My guess is that it will not happen in December," he said.