Wesley Chapel to get a new fire rescue station

A new fire station in Wesley Chapel will replace an aging facility that has become inadequate to handle the needs of a growing population.

Pasco County’s Fire Rescue Station No. 13, off Old Pasco Road, is expected to open in January 2019. A groundbreaking was held in mid-March on the same day the Pasco County commissioners approved the construction contract of about $2.6 million.

Funding is partially from the Penny for Pasco program.

Construction is underway on a replacement fire station for Pasco County’s Fire Rescue Station No. 13, in Wesley Chapel. The station is expected to open in January. (Courtesy of Pasco County Fire Rescue)

In addition, Pasco purchased an adjacent property for about $467,000, according to county records.

The additional land was needed to accommodate a new fire station that, at about 9,400 square feet, will more than double the size of the old station at 27329 Dayflower Blvd.

The new station also will have space for a Pasco County Sheriff’s substation, where deputies will be able to write up reports, and conduct interviews.

The new station will have three drive-through bays and will be able to hold six fire vehicles. Currently, five firefighters and a battalion chief work each shift. But, the additional space means that eventually up to nine firefighters and one battalion chief could be accommodated.

Instead of dormitory-style sleeping quarters, individual bunkrooms will be provided.

There will be a larger kitchen, with individual pantries for each shift.

Firefighters will have an on-site fitness area, and a specialized washing system for their gear. Also, there will be customized gear lockers in a climate-controlled room.

For emergency calls at night, a “stumble light” system will automatically turn on lights at the fire station, as firefighters don their gear and board fire vehicles.

The station is modeled after Fire Rescue Station No. 30 at Little Road and Massachusetts Avenue, in western Pasco. In 2015, the station won Firehouse Magazine’s “Notable Architectural Design Award.”

Pasco County Fire Chief Scott Cassin said, “It’s essentially the same footprint and design.”

While the new station is under construction, the old station – built in the 1970s – remains operational, Cassin said. It will be torn down once its replacement is opened, he added.

“It’s really in a good location in the central part of the county,” said Cassin.

The area is also a high growth area for the county, with new residents arriving monthly.

Estimates show Pasco adds about 300 homes each month, Cassin said.

Pasco’s growth in all areas of the county is bringing challenges to county departments that deliver services to residents.

Fire rescue especially is called upon to respond to increasing numbers of emergency calls.

At budget workshops to prepare the 2019 draft budget, fire rescue officials noted that in 2017 firefighters responded to more than 71,000 such calls. Over the next eight years, those calls are expected to increase to 100,000 a year.

Much of that is due to overall population increases, but Cassin said other factors also add to the call volume, including Pasco’s aging population.

Lack of health insurance for some is also a factor, he said.

“A lot of people have dropped their health insurance and don’t get the medical care that they should,” Cassin said. They can wind up seeking medical attention when it becomes an emergency, he added.

“We’re seeing some of that,” he said.

As the county’s growth continues, Cassin said fire rescue is planning to expand its capabilities.

However, that comes at a cost to build new stations, increase personnel and add equipment.

In the general election on Nov. 6, voters will be asked to consider approval of four 30-year general bond referendums for the sheriff’s department, parks, libraries and fire rescue.

Over the life of the bond, if approved, fire rescue estimates collecting more than $70.2 million in revenues. About $2.2 million would cover costs of financing the bond, and leave fire rescue about $68 million for construction projects.

Funds would be used to build nine fire stations, including new ones and expanded or refurbished ones.

Four new stations would be located at Suncoast Parkway and State Road 52; State Road 52 and Majestic Parkway; Meadow Pointe, by State Road 56; and Bexley, off State Road 54.

In addition, five stations would be expanded and upgraded.

They would be at U.S. 41 and Central Boulevard; Seven Springs Boulevard; U.S. 19 and Cross Bayou Boulevard; Shady Hills; and, Crystal Springs.

Published August 8, 2018

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