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    Northwest fire station faces delays

    Trouble acquiring land upset plans for an October opening. City officials now look to February, with no plans for a temporary station in the interim.

    By JENNIFER FARRELL, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published January 12, 2003


    CLEARWATER -- For years, fire rescue response times have lagged in the northwest section of the city. And for years, city officials have promised to build a new station there to address the coverage gap.

    But finding a suitable property took longer than expected, and the project is running about 18 months behind schedule. Planned to open in October, the station will be built on 1.5 acres of a 4.2-acre parcel at Overbrook Avenue and Betty Lane. The station probably will not be finished before February 2003.

    As the department prepares to begin demolition of an existing salvage yard on the property next month, union president John Lee has criticized the city for its failure to find an interim solution.

    "I understand their situation, but what about the people?" he asked.

    Lee argued for a temporary facility in the area.

    "They put one at Sand Key immediately," said Lee. "Why not at Northwest?"

    City Manager Bill Horne said the city has no plans to build a temporary station in the area.

    Comparing service needs with those in Sand Key is unfair, he added, because Sand Key is more remote.

    "Under mutual aid, the Northwest part of our city has consistently gotten support from Dunedin and other cities," said Horne.

    But Jonathan Wade, president of the North Greenwood Association, said the city should build a temporary facility in his neighborhood.

    "It would be equitable and of good faith that they would do something similar so that we don't have tragedies," he said. "They could do something in good faith to make that happen."

    Wade acknowledged a personal interest, saying his 80-year-old aunt was killed in a fire in North Greenwood four years ago.

    And the issue has been a hot button in a community that has historically been neglected, he said.

    "We've been a tolerant and patient community," said Wade. "And I think that's sometimes to our downfall."

    On Tuesday, Fire Chief Rowland Herald will present plans for the new station and answer questions during a 6:30 p.m. public meeting in the Martin Luther King Recreation Complex, 1201 Douglas Avenue.

    -- Jennifer Farrell can be reached at 445-4160 or farrell@sptimes.com ">farrell@sptimes.com .

    If you go

    Fire Chief Rowland Herald will present plans for the new station and answer questions during a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Martin Luther King Recreation Complex, 1201 Douglas Avenue.

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