County Buys `Ideal' Site For Fire Station
By KEITH MORELLI kmorelli@tampatrib.com
Published: Aug 30, 2003



LUTZ - In a push to improve response times to the fast- growing areas northwest of Tampa, Hillsborough County Fire Rescue has secured land for a new firehouse on North Nebraska Avenue at Chapman Road, just south of where Nebraska and Florida avenues meet.
The 1.4-acre parcel, fell into the lap of the department, which had long considered that spot perfect to house an engine company and ambulance.

``It was great,'' fire rescue Chief David Travis said. ``With what we had planned, using all of our best estimates, Chapman Road and U.S. 41 was ideal.''

Last week, the Hillsborough County Commission approved the purchase of the property on North Nebraska Avenue. The Florida Department of Transportation had purchased the property for road expansion and the station will be on a part of the property that was not used.

The asking price of $321,875 is what the state paid, county records show.

Construction on the new firehouse will begin next year, Travis said, and should be completed in 2005. The two- bay, 6,000 to 8,000-square-foot station is expected to cost $2.4 million. It will house a pumper truck with a crew of three firefighters and an advanced life support ambulance with a crew of two paramedics, Travis said.

The department is planning six new fire stations around the county, including four in Northwest Hillsborough. A new firehouse on Sheldon Road, just south of Old Linebaugh Avenue on a 60 acres owned by the county, is expected to open by next year.

Fire officials plan a fire station on Northdale Boulevard, but haven't settled on a location yet, Travis said.

The fourth station is planned for Montague Street near Memorial Highway.

``We are working with a consultant right now on our long- term growth plan,'' he said. ``Our response time in some of the urban areas is relatively poor, and we would like to improve those.''

Strategically located fire stations are the key, he said.

The station in Lutz should improve response time in a growing area, especially in the nearby Avila subdivision, where some homes are worth millions of dollars.

That area is served by a station on 131st Avenue and the Lutz Volunteer Fire Department on Lutz-Lake Fern Road, he said.

``There are a lot of existing communities all around that station,'' he said, ``and there is considerable growth north and south and east of that station.''

Once the proposed firehouses are completed, Travis said, fire rescue officials will seek a study by the independent Insurance Service Organization to determine if insurance rates for residents around the new facilities should be reduced.

Auralee Buckingham, with the Lutz Community Council, said she has nothing against building a new fire station in her community but wonders why the department doesn't build one farther north, ``where it would be nearer to so many more people.''

``It will cut into our being able to raise funds to sustain our own station,'' she said. ``All of the people that new station would serve will not be willing to donate $25 a year to our volunteer fire department.''

Still, she said, ``Anytime you build a fire station... that's a good thing.''

The county commission will hold a public meeting to discuss the station at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Mort Elementary School, 1806 Bearss Ave.


Reporter Keith Morelli can be reached at (813) 885-6973.