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Tampa City Council discuss issues concerning fire stations, public safety

Posted at 6:05 AM, Nov 19, 2020

TAMPA, Fla. — At Thursday's Tampa City Council meeting, council members took a deep look at public safety, especially at the needs of the city's fire stations.

Councilman Luis Viera recently visited Station 13 which serves families living on Busch Blvd., Fowler Ave., and several other neighborhoods in North Tampa. Data shows they answer about 13% of all calls for service across Tampa.

A survey in Firehouse Magazine shows they're the 54th busiest ladder in the entire country. They rank even higher at No. 20 when it comes to their engine.

Viera wants to put a "long-term master plan for public safety" in motion for fire rescue, police and EMS. When it comes to Station 13, Viera says those firefighters need additional resources to help with response times.

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"The overall scope of my motion is to make sure we're not reactive anymore when it comes to public safety, but we're proactive," Councilman Viera said. "One large map where we look at where all of our public safety deficits are. Seeing where we need help and relief in the areas then building a financial bridge on how to get there."

Station 13 recently received a new rescue unit. But, long term Viera says another station could help take the load off Station 13. In recent years, the city added stations 20, 21, 22, and 23. They're all located in New Tampa.

"My wish list would be immediate help for the New and North Tampa area on waiting times, on resources, then looking at getting a new fire station in North Tampa. That area they cover is far too large with too many challenges," Viera said.

During Thursday's meeting, the council agreed to come back in January with a plan of action to bring Station 13 immediate relief. For the bigger picture, the council passed another motion for a workshop focused on public safety in March, including looking at that master plan.

"For things like waiting times in the New Tampa area and throughout the city of Tampa and then the prospect of a new fire station in Channelside, in New Tampa, as well as in north Tampa and then how to build a financial bridge to get there," said Viera.

Viera said there might be grants available, but he wants to keep all options on the table, he says as a city that puts public safety first.

Viera is hopeful that his fellow council members will be on board with the master plan. He's also certain with Mayor Jane Castor's background in public safety as a former police chief will also see the need for boosting resources.

Tampa Firefighters Local 754 president Joe Greco explained new stations will help cut down response times and provide much-needed service.

“We've just got to catch up with getting stations put in place, manpower, and units to keep up with the growth of our city," said Greco.

Council members will also have the option to accept or reject a more than $3 million bid for safety improvements to 46th Street, stretching from Busch to Fowler. This would include two 11 through lanes with bicycle lane markings, replacing and widening sidewalks, putting in a mini-roundabout at the intersection of 46th and Linebaugh, and crosswalks with flashing beacons.

This project will be funded from several sources, but councilman Viera says this could've been paid with "All For Transportation" tax money. Unfortunately, it's in legal limbo.

"That's about $300 million in transportation money that is being collected from taxpayers that is being held up because of the lawsuit that the Supreme Court has right now. So this is money that doesn't come out of that," Viera said.

More than 57% of county voters wanted the penny tax. Earlier this year, commissioners were working on an alternative plan that would put a referendum on the November ballot, but then the pandemic hit and they decided to focus on that instead.