By Erika Webb
There wasn't a lot of jubilation at last month's roundtable budget meeting in Deltona. Houses remain vacant. Economic development isn't where officials and residents would like it to be. The budget is tight.
But Deputy Fire Chief Robert Rogers brought a little sunlight to the table when he spoke briefly about his pride and joy -- Fire Station No. 65.
Built nearly two years ago the 11,000-square-foot facility on Howland Boulevard was designed for LEED certification, and for anticipated growth along the commercial corridor where it sits.
Chief Rogers said a series of photovoltaic panels -- solar panels in plain English -- were paid for through a $100,000 federal grant and generate 50 percent of the station's electricity.
"We are projecting that to be a savings of about $400 to $500 a month," Chief Rogers said in a phone interview.
He said while it might take the average homeowner who buys solar panels 50 years to recoup the investment, the city of Deltona had an advantage by qualifying for federal funding.
"From day one, I started saving money and making money on that solar panel," he said.
A solar water heater generates every drop of hot water in the building.
"The only time we pull power from the power company is if it's more than the panels can generate or at night," he said.
The 24/7 Essential Facility houses the Deltona Fire Department and includes administrative offices, meeting and training rooms, a dayroom and three-bay apparatus area. The facility also includes a fitness center, library, fully equipped kitchen and sleeping quarters.
Chief Rogers said the generators and six-burner commercial range all operate using natural gas, emitting fewer pollutants and providing more energy efficiency than fossil fuels.
Very few south-facing windows and several low-energy glass windows along the northwest side keep the sun's heat from penetrating the building.
"You can't tell if you're walking in front of a wall or a window," the chief said.
High efficiency air-conditioning units offer zone control throughout the facility, keeping usage at a minimum.
LED lighting, high efficiency foam injected insulated panels and double insulated walls all contribute to saving the budget as well as the environment.
"It's a $2 million facility," Chief Rogers said, "but operating costs now and for years to come are going to (allow it to) pay for itself."
Typical of LEED requirements, he said, as much was done as possible to minimize environmental impact.
"We didn't burn up 500 gallons of diesel fuel trucking stone from California," Chief Rogers said.
Instead, stucco from a local source just down the road was used -- an economic shot in the arm for that business owner.
"There's a well out front for irrigation, but you'll never see that running," he added, "because all irrigation comes from a drip irrigation system underground."
The building environment also provides employees health advantages, or at least not detriments. Low-VOC paint and carpet adhesive were used throughout.
"Four years ago when you painted a building, it stunk so bad inside, but this paint and carpet glue are environmentally friendly so there's no off gassing to provide those fumes," he explained.
Most of the materials brought in and all discarded items were recycled -- "concrete, wood ... everything," the chief said.
Deltona Fire Station No. 65 runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week with a crew of three to four on duty.
Chief Rogers expects what city officials have forecast to happen -- major growth throughout the northwest corner of Deltona, along Howland Boulevard west of Normandy Boulevard.
"Another factor in having a fire station at that corner of the city ... it's gonna be a huge commercial corridor in a couple of years," he said. "There's the movie theater, carwash, now a Dunkin Donuts. We already have Deltona High School and we're also first due to Galaxy Middle School and Timbercrest Elementary ... it's a fairly large area."
At the roundtable meeting Commissioner Webster Barnaby shared the chief's sentiments about high potential for a city center along Howland Boulevard, from the Interstate 4 interchange to Providence Boulevard.
"Casselberry is building a city center," Commissioner Barnaby said. "Dunlawton off 95 was barren for years but now they have a downtown with big box stores and restaurants."
"We're a first class city," he added. "They'll be begging us to come in here."
Emergency services may not be as delightful to ponder as a Vanilla Bean Coolatta but they are somehow even more essential to a growing community, and Fire Station No. 65 is ready.
"The station was designed for future development," Chief Rogers said. "There will be a total of 30 personnel when it's fully filled out. There will be an engine, a ladder truck, a rescue truck and a battalion chief all responding out of this facility."