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Cocoa Beach plans to replace firehouse

Commissioner says station may cost under $2 million

COCOA BEACH – When monstrous Hurricane Floyd flirted with the Space Coast in 1999, fire engines were forced to relocate from the city's rickety South Orlando Avenue station to the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, City Commissioner Skip Williams recalls.

And as our news partners at Florida Today report, he fears the same thing will occur if a storm strikes this summer.

"They've already said: If it's going to be a Category 2, verging on a 3, those fire trucks are gone. And the bay doors go open so the wind can blow through — so the building doesn't blow down," Williams said during last week's commission meeting.

After years of fire-station discussion and debate, commissioners appear poised to take advantage of low construction costs and interest rates. Last week, they unanimously directed City Hall staffers to spend the next three months drafting plans to build a new facility.

Maximum cost: $3 million. But Commissioner Ken Griffin, a former assistant fire chief in Highland Park, Mich., said he believes the station can be built for less than $2 million.

A public workshop will be scheduled before binding votes occur, per Commissioner Kevin Pruett's request. The likely construction site is next to City Hall.

Vice Mayor Dave Netterstrom proposed the up-to-$3 million fire station idea. He cited the Cape Canaveral City Council's decision in January to build a new fire station on Jackson Avenue, projected to cost $2 million to $2.5 million.

To finance a Cocoa Beach fire station, Netterstrom proposes using money that will be freed after a 10-year, $1.5 million Maritime Hammock Preserve acquisition loan is paid off next year.

The city will retire this note after paying $184,674 this budget year and $188,284 during the next year, Finance Director Charles Holland said.

"Since we've gotten used to that car payment, you might say, we could convert that into servicing a mortgage on a fire station," Netterstrom said during last week's meeting.

"It fits within our budget. It's not going to box us into a corner where we might have to raise taxes and things like that," Netterstrom said.

In fall 2010, Cocoa Beach officials shelved plans to construct a new fire station, police station and administration facility because of budgetary constraints. Estimated costs ranged from $8.8 million to $13.3 million, depending on locations and other factors.

On Feb. 23, Cocoa Beach and Brevard County Fire-Rescue officials will discuss partnering on fire and EMS services in nearby Snug Harbor.