St. Petersburg Times--South Pinellas
Lealman edges Seminole for Bay Pines fire service
By ANNE LINDBERG, Times Staff Writer
Published July 3, 2005
LEALMAN - After providing fire service to the Bay Pines VA Medical Center for 27 years, Seminole has lost the contract to Lealman.
The Lealman department, with its two fire engines, will be responsible for answering an average of 100 calls a year at Bay Pines.
Veterans Administration officials notified the two departments of the change late Wednesday after they opened bids to find Lealman had offered to do the job for $40,000 a year less than Seminole. Seminole's asking price was $190,000, about 5 percent more than it was charging this year.
Beginning at 12:01 a.m. Friday, the Lealman Fire District took over first response fire duty for the 259-acre facility. The one-year contract has an option for a one-year renewal and covers about 26 hospital and administration buildings on the property.
It does not include the Federal Credit Union, which is also on the acreage. That is a separate contract that Seminole will retain, Lealman fire Chief Rick Graham said. That means Seminole will continue to be the first responder to any fire calls from the credit union.
Even before Lealman took over first-response coverage, Seminole Chief Dan Graves wrote Graham a letter that apparently said he would send Seminole engines into Bay Pines only after Lealman was on the scene.
"By accepting the agreement with the VA facility, the Lealman Fire District is responsible for having a Lealman fire unit on scene prior to requesting additional resources," Graves wrote.
Graham was outraged. Pinellas County has long had a mutual aid agreement that provides for a first response from the nearest available engine. Because Lealman has only two engines in two of the busiest departments in the county, it is highly likely that those engines could be unavailable to go to Bay Pines should an alarm go off.
That's generally no problem because, with mutual aid, the next closest available engine would respond. That would likely be Seminole. But if Seminole refuses to go on the property until after Lealman arrives, the result could be devastating.
"No department in this county stands alone," Graham said. "I'm very disappointed that it's come down to this with mutual aid in this county. I didn't think I'd see this in my career."
It is an issue, Graham said, of safety for both the public and firefighters.
Graves said Thursday, "The contract says they have to respond, nobody else. They have to respond. . . . Lealman is going to have to hold up to the responsibility that they asked for."
If Lealman does not, it has violated its contract, Graves said. But Graves said he does not intend to leave people or property in danger.
Should there be a fire, Graves said, "we're going to make sure that the buildings are safe and the people are rescued."
Graham said Friday he had talked with Graves.
"I believe everything was resolved," Graham said. "If there's a fire out there, I can assure you those two will both be there as will others because that's the way our system works. . . . It's resolved. It's fixed."
Ironically, the situation is similar to that which Lealman faces every day. The Lealman fire district once spread almost to the Bay Pines facility. But in 2000, Seminole annexed the western side of Park Street, taking the tax-rich property out of Lealman's budget but leaving Lealman as the first responder.
Lealman officials have long complained about the inequities of having to respond to an area that is no longer paying them for service while Seminole reaps the benefits without having to provide first-line coverage.
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07-08-2005, 08:14 PM #1
Contract for Coverage to Pinellas VA Center Stirs Controversy09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
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The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.
07-08-2005, 08:21 PM #2
Typical interdepartmental bs. Sounds like Seminole stole their money (taxes) and now they are taking it back another way. Too bad innocent bystanders may have to end up in the crossfire of this dispute.
07-13-2005, 09:57 PM #3
This is fantastic! Hows that taste Seminole? Now their Chief is crying about it, saying hes not going to send units there. Hey Chief, ever heard of the county mutual aid contracts? I think you will be sending units to BayPines and like it.
Last edited by Dave1983; 07-13-2005 at 10:00 PM.Fire Marshal/Safety Officer
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