Fire district opposes city annexation


BY ERIN BRYCE ERIN.BRYCE@ HERALDTRIBUNE.COM;


BRADENTON -- The Braden River Fire Commission is worried about a decreasing tax base as Bradenton city officials annex more of their district.

Braden River Fire Commissioner Darrell Phillips cited his concerns at last week's Bradenton City Council meeting, when officials voted to annex the biggest chunk of land since Perico Island five years ago. The city is scheduled to vote Wednesday on a second nearby annexation.

Phillips said the fire commission opposed both annexations off 48th Street Court East and wanted the council to think about compensation and response times. Braden River Fire District's Station 2, which is in the 800 block of 60th Street Court East, is the closest to both properties.

"I just feel like, as you annex more property, you're going to become closer and closer to a station that can provide services quicker and more economically," Phillips told the city council. "On the streets, our No. 1 response is to the residents and citizens of the city and county."

But Bradenton Fire Chief Mark Souders said agreements already exist between the two agencies to handle calls for help.

"We've always had a real positive relationship with them, and I'm going to keep it that way," Souders said.

Souders wrote a letter this week addressing Phillips' concerns. In it, he explained that since 1985, fire districts have maintained an agreement that the closest fire engine responds.

In other words, Souders said, if there is a car accident in the city but it occurs closer to the Braden River Fire District's station, that station's firefighters would respond first. He said the city fire department also would respond as backup.

In 2002, Braden River Fire District responded to four calls in the city limits, Souders said. The Bradenton Fire Department responded 14 times to incidents in the Braden River Fire District.

And there has never been any monetary compensation, Souders said.

"It hasn't been an issue for us," he said.

He said he is willing to discuss the agreement with the Braden River Fire Commission.

Braden River Fire Chief Byron Teates said he received Souders' letter this week, but had not had the time to read it. He said he would not comment without reviewing the letter.

Currently, the Braden River district faces a possible $300,000 debt at the end of this budget year.

Deputy Chief Lee Whitehurst, spokesman for the department, said the annexation should not affect the deficit.

"Right now, it's a vacant lot," he said. "It really doesn't have an impact."

The newly annexed 383 acres McClure Properties owns is open farmland. So is the second parcel, 74 acres owned by the Aurora Foundation. Neither owner has submitted development plans for the sites.

Staff writer Mitra Malek contributed to this report