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State audit postpones fire department hearing

The audit will help establish if the volunteers, criticized after a fire last year, are following safety regulations.

By ASJYLYN LODER
Published September 30, 2006


The Hernando County Commission postponed a Tuesday hearing on the High Point Fire Department pending an audit of the department by the state Bureau of Fire Standards and Training.

The bureau has a meeting with the volunteers Tuesday morning.

"We didn't know they had an investigation going on at the same time we were planning our meeting," said Commission Chairwoman Diane Rowden.

The commission's hearing on High Point will likely be rescheduled for Oct. 17.

The audit will help determine compliance with state safety standards and codes, according to a letter the bureau sent to the county.

"It will give the board additional information to consider," said Deputy County Administrator Larry Jennings.

This is the latest in the county's yearlong tangle with the volunteer force of retirees that provides fire protection to the 1,600-home community north of State Road 50.

Residents of the mobile home community pay a voluntary $45 fee for their fire protection, as opposed to the considerably higher tax levied on most Hernando County homeowners.

A 2005 Labor Day weekend fire sparked the controversy, with Hernando County Fire Rescue firefighters claiming the volunteers were poorly trained and physically incapable of fighting fires. The volunteers disagreed, and promised to seek additional training.

Asjylyn Loder can be reached at aloder@sptimes.com or 352 754-6127.