Later this fall, the Village will begin discussions about fire rescue services. A decision on the matter could affect residents for many years to come. The question is, what will the Village Council decide?
It’s not just about saving lives, it’s also about saving money. Over the last five years, Village residents paid an average of $8.3 million per year to Miami-Dade County for emergency services. The county’s fire-rescue department handles an average of 1,330 Pinecrest calls annually; about three-quarters are emergency medical services calls, about one quarter of the calls are false alarms; only two percent are actual fire calls.
The Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department plans to locate a fire station at 14200 Old Cutler Road in Palmetto Bay, which will improve response times in southwest Pinecrest, but will do nothing to resolve long-standing inequities in the high cost of fire-and-rescue services.
The Village Council hired the TriData Division of System Planning Corp. of Arlington, VA earlier this year to study various options. The consultant presented a final report at the Council’s July 8 meeting. The consultant suggested that Pinecrest could:
• Start its own fire department, either self-managed or combined with police services under a public safety structure.
• Contract either with Coral Gables or another municipality.
• Start its own fire department, but contract with another municipality for administration and support or for certain nonemergency functions.
• Just maintain the status quo or try to work out a more favorable fire-tax formula with Miami-Dade County.
The consultant said Pinecrest’s fire rescue department would require a single facility if located in a central residential area. A site would be needed for a threebay, 8,000-square-foot station, with a staff of 39 firefighters and administrators. The first-year cost, including the capital expense of buying land, building a fire station and acquiring equipment, would be $16 million. After the first year, the cost is estimated at $6 million annually. The county still would provide regional helicopter medical rescue, hazmat, poison control and other specialized services as they do now.
Compared to the $8.3 million a year the Village is now paying the county, establishing our own fire rescue department could very well be worth the set-up cost and subsequent annual operational costs.
The complete report is available at http://www.pinecrest-fl.gov/reports. What should Pinecrest do? What do you think? Let us know. We welcome your comments.