Sparkling New Fire Stations Open, Finally
By GEOFF FOX and CANDACE J. SAMOLINSKI The Tampa Tribune
Published: Jun 17, 2003


Mike Flannery wasn't surprised when Pasco firefighters responded to the smoke alarm that accidentally sounded at his Wesley Chapel home this past weekend.
He was surprised that they got there in just a few minutes.

Pasco Fire Station No. 26 opened in Meadow Pointe on Thursday.

Before that, Flannery said, residents might have waited 15 minutes for help.

``It's nine years overdue,'' said Flannery's wife, Terri. ``We were told we were getting a fire station when we moved in here 10 years ago.''

The wait also is over for residents in Hudson.

After months of legal wrangling and construction delays, construction was finished on Station No. 26 on June 6 and on Pasco Fire Station No. 21 in Hudson a week later - both were eight months behind schedule.

The opening of the Meadow Pointe station may alleviate concerns about rising homeowners insurance rates.

Several companies raised rates this year because of construction delays, and county officials heard complaints.

In spring 2002, Nelco Construction of Tampa was awarded a combined bid to build the Meadow Pointe station for $569,200 and the Hudson station, which replaces one next door on Frierson Lake Drive, for $577,450.

Delays forced Nelco to pony up thousands of dollars in fines.

By Sunday, workers at the Hudson station already were calling it home when the building was struck by lightning, said Dan Johnson, assistant county administrator for public services.

``It fried a washer and dryer, knocked out the power and telephone,'' he said.

``I'm not sure how severe the damage to the building was.''

Although construction was delayed, neither Wesley Chapel nor Hudson went without fire coverage, Johnson said.

Station 26 firefighters spent their days at the Meadow Pointe I community center while rescue personnel worked from Station No. 13 on Old Pasco Road.

Their nights were spent at a Tampa fire station on Cross Creek Boulevard.

``They had a big station down there, plenty of room and only one engine, plenty of sleeping quarters,'' said Lt. Carlos Garcia.

``They treated us like family and we were very grateful,'' he said.

In Hudson, emergency personnel worked from and slept in the old fire station, next door to the new one.

According to Garcia, seniority dictated who was chosen to work in the new stations.

Five firefighters and paramedics staff the stations, working 24 hours on, then having 48 hours off.

The new stations are equipped with advanced life support equipment on the firetruck and ambulance.

Between calls, there's time for training.

``We do a lot of training, whether it be on apparatus on the rescues, any kind of equipment like that,'' Garcia said.

``In the afternoon, a lot of the guys and girls are in school and a lot of them take the time to study,'' he said.

``A lot of the emergency medical technicians are studying to go to paramedic school.''

No. 26 is the only Pasco station with individual bedrooms, instead of open bays for sleeping, Garcia said.

The station also has five recliners, a television, a microwave, an electric stove, a dishwasher and a refrigerator.

There's one drawback: no cable.

``I like to keep it on Scooby- Doo,'' Garcia said.

Reach reporter Geoff Fox at (813) 948-4217 or Reach Candace J. Samolinski at (813) 948-4215 or>gfox@tampatrib.com.

Reach Candace J. Samolinski at (813) 948-4215 or gfox@tampatrib.com.

Reach Candace J. Samolinski at (813) 948-4215 or csamolinski@tampatrib.com.