ST. PETE BEACH — The St. Pete Beach Fire Department will soon have its own rescue vessel responding to water-situated emergencies.
“St. Pete Beach Fire Department’s primary mission of protecting the public … and the ability to respond to all types of incidents is critical,” said District Fire Chief Adam Poirrier at the City Commission’s July 23 meeting.
“As an island community, the surrounding waterways present unique challenges requiring specialized equipment. While SPBFD currently has no such resources, the department has been working on obtaining a marine rescue boat for several years,” he added.
The Metal Shark 26-foot Relentless Rescue Boat, Marine 22, which has a metal hull, dual 250-horsepower Mercury motors and a center console, will look like a smaller version of a Coast Guard rescue boat, designed to allow paramedics easy access to pull people out of the water, Fire Chief Jim Kilpatrick said during the meeting.
The fire department will respond to water rescue emergencies and assist citizens in waters in and around Pinellas County, in addition to providing closest unit coverage in accordance with the automatic aid agreement, Poirrier said.
In December 2016, county commissioners authorized local fire departments and other entities to submit requests to obtain a portion of Deepwater Horizon settlement funds received by Pinellas County.
The fire department was awarded $100,000 to be used for a water rescue enhancement project, the district chief explained. County EMS officials also authorized an additional $100,000 for this project, providing for total funding of $200,000.
In addition to the initial purchase amount, SPBFD will receive operating and maintenance funding of $5,000 on an annual basis from the county’s EMS. Marine 22 will also be eligible for upgrades through county EMS Water Enhancement funds.
Kilpatrick said the vessel will be kept at a lift station near the Community Center and not require additional firefighters to be hired. The chief added he does not anticipate overtime for normal responses.
Mayor Al Johnson expects the boat to cut response time.
Marine 22 will be more functional and a much different design from the city’s 25-year old police boat that can only be used weekends or during daylight hours; The new boat will be faster and can be utilized 24-hours a day by firefighters from Station 23.
City commissioners unanimously approved the fire department acquiring the boat. The city expects to purchase and take delivery within the next fiscal year.
City maintains millage rate
At the Tuesday meeting, commissioners also voted to maintain the city’s current property tax rate of 3.15 mills.
This will generate $628,145 in new revenue due to a 6.57% increase in property values, City Manager Alex Rey said.
“This will allow the city to balance its budget and fund the capital projects identified in the capital improvement plan,” he added.
The city could have adopted a roll-back rate of 2.96 mills, but needs the $628,145 in new revenue that the increase in property values will generate to fund planned improvements and services, the city manager explained.
“From what I’ve seen I don’t know that we want to go lower. Maintaining this millage is very important,” Johnson said.
The city will hold public hearings on its millage rate Tuesday, Sept. 3, and Tuesday, Sept. 17, both at 6 p.m. at City Hall.