By Erika Webb
City officials in DeBary want new facilities for law enforcement and fire services.
The city council voted unanimously July 3 to authorize City Manager Dan Parrott and City Attorney Kurt Ardaman to negotiate a contract, for council consideration, to buy property for a police and/or fire station.
The current 2,108-square-foot police facility at 94 S. U.S. 17/92 is inadequate to meet the needs of the Volusia County Sheriff's Office and the citizens seeking service, according to the staff report.
"You get more than three people show up and somebody's gotta stand outside," Mr. Parrott said.
DeBary's fire station does not meet wind load requirements and must be abandoned during extreme storm events, city staff reported.
At a June 19 workshop, the council discussed buying property at 73 and 75 S. U.S. 17/92 near City Hall for a public safety facility.
The vacant lot and the parcel that houses an unoccupied restaurant are owned by JTC Commercial LLC in Lake Mary and have a combined taxable value of $154,000, according to the Volusia County Property Appraiser's office.
During public participation, DeBary resident Morton Culligan reminded the council the city is $10.5 million in debt.
He suggested using the Florence A. Little building next to City Hall.
"It's perfect for a fire station and we already own it," Mr. Culligan said.
He said buying property will remove it from the tax rolls and sink the city deeper into debt.
Mayor Bob Garcia said the idea of a new fire station is not new or frivolous.
"I am the one that's been pushing for the fire station," Mayor Garcia said. "That building is unsafe."
He said discussions about the building -- designed as a temporary structure -- started 15 years ago.
Vice Mayor Chris Carson noted the fire station was built when the city's population was less than 6,000. DeBary's population is now more than 19,000.
He said law enforcement and fire services are no less important than the budget-draining storm water system.
"I support public safety," the vice mayor said. "We need a fully functional, up-to-date police facility as well as a fire services facility."
Councilman Dan Hunt said the motion was designed simply to provide information to the council.
"We're not giving the city manager authorization to purchase anything," Councilman Hunt said. "We're giving him direction that his hands aren't tied in conversation."
The city attorney advised the council to consider multiple properties.
"If you have a single property that you're focused on, it doesn't give you the opportunity for the best deal," Mr. Ardaman said.
Mayor Garcia assured residents the council is not reaching into the piggy bank for a new public safety complex just yet.
"I would not vote right now to build a new fire or police station," the mayor said. "We haven't seen the end of this discussion."
He said obtaining grant money would be the best way to get the new facilities built and explained it's prudent for the council to plan now.
Councilman Hunt agreed.
"We have to think long term, not five feet in front of us, 50 miles down the road," Councilman Hunt said.
In other business, the council approved a task order in the amount of $35,000 with Pegasus Engineering to establish a storm water management Illicit Discharge Inspection Program in order to comply with the EPA mandated NPDES permit program. Also approved was a $35,783 budget adjustment to fund construction of a permanent automated storm water pump station for No Name Lake.
Those expenditures prompted a discussion about continued spending for contracted storm water engineering, design and construction services.
"This is never gonna end in DeBary," Councilman Hunt said.
Mr. Parrott said the city is running out of money for major projects.
"Our funding stream is in such a state that I don't think we're going to have a lot of larger projects," Mr. Parrott said. "We simply can't afford this."
After a discussion about the ongoing storm water issues and associated costs, the council agreed to workshop the idea of adding an in-house engineering staff for storm water projects.
Recent rains are not helping the ongoing drainage dilemma.
"I've been receiving a lot of storm water complaints lately," Mr. Parrott said.
Councilman Nick Koval said he believes it's worth looking at the cost-saving potential of adding engineering staff versus contracting the inevitable projects.
"I do believe that this council needs to look at those issues," Councilman Koval said. "I started the dialogue on public works and it saved a lot of money."