Budget conference: Clay County stations, Sarasota training academy win dollars in fire fight
Clay COunty Fire Station 24.

Clay County
Legislators continue to haggle over millions in firefighter funding requests.

The fire fight continues between the House and Senate. But negotiators are closer to deciding which firehouses and emergency centers get state funding and whose requests won’t make it to the front burner.

The latest Senate offer on the State Administration and Technology budget shows a number of projects will get dollars.

Clay County will receive $1.5 million to split for two fire stations. The chambers also agreed to give $1 million for a Sarasota regional training academy for firefighters and EMS first responders.

A line item for $975,000 to a Coral Gables fire station also made the cut.

Pasco County firefighters have won over appropriators in both chambers, who include $900,000 for a mobile command center.

Suwannee County Fire Rescue could soon buy a new pump engine with $800,000 included in the budget.

Baker County has $650,000 in the House and Senate now for a new pumper truck. The Baker fire district also won over both chambers to secure $410,000 for a water tanker and almost $82,000 for breathing apparatuses and personal protective equipment.

The Wetappo Creek Volunteer Fire Department has $500,000 in the budget now for fire rescue equipment.

The Bradford County Fire District landed $450,000 for a new fire engine. Davie Fire Safety has $200,000 allotted for a mobile classroom vehicle.

But there are major spending priorities in each chamber that remain up for debate.

While the Senate has more than $616 million in the entire Department of Financial Services budget, compared to the House’s near $596 million, the House has a good bit more budgeted for fire departments.

The lower chamber has $5 million set aside for a fire administration center in Flagler County.

House budget negotiators still want $750,000 for an Anastasia fire station. They also want $950,000 for a Columbia County station.

The chamber wants $500,000 to rebuild a Clermont fire station in the Hartwood Marsh, and another $500,000 for a Madeira Beach fire and public works station.

The House is seeking $475,000 for Branford to buy a Sutphin SP 70 Aerial Platform fire truck, but the Senate hasn’t gone for that plan. Similarly, Representatives budgeted $750,000 to buy a fire engine for Cross City, but Senators have yet to agree to that.

The House has $250,000 set aside for the Chattahoochee Fire Department.

But the Senate does want to put up $500,000 for an aerial ladder fire truck in Mexico City. It also seeks $1 million for a Martin County training center renovation. And it wants $2 million for the Ponce de Leon Fire Station Restoration.

The House will meet the Senate halfway on some Southwest Florida stations. The Senate wants $6.5 million for the Immokalee Fire Control District and the House has offered $3.25 million. The Senate also wants $6 million for the LaBelle Fire Department, and the House is willing to give up $3 million.

The House also offered $1 million for a Parrish fire station while the Senate is pushing for $2 million.

Budget conference subcommittees will meet throughout the week to resolve differences in each area. When remaining issues reach an impasse, they will be “bumped” to the full budget conference committee.

Lawmakers must reach an agreement on a final spending plan by May 2 to meet the 72-hour “cooling off” period required by the state constitution before they can vote on the budget to avoid pushing the Regular Session past its scheduled May 5 end date.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].

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