WINDERMERE – The town may soon get its own fire station – if the public wills it.
A recent assessment conducted of the town’s public facilities presented the Windermere Town Council with options regarding where to build a new police department, public works facility and town administration department.
In the assessment presented by Winter Park-based Architects Design Group were three options out of the five that included the possibility of adding a 4,500-square-foot two-bay fire substation along with the construction of the town facilities.
In all three options – Option A-1, Option B-2 and Option C – adding a town fire station is estimated to cost the town an investment upwards of $1.19 million, which does not include the cost of technology, furniture and other equipment.
Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn noted that if the town chose to pursue the construction of a fire station, Ocoee would provide the personnel for the substation.
“Ocoee’s fire station is about $2.2 million, but ours would be less than that because it would be a substation,” Bruhn said. “It wouldn’t have all the amenities and everything, it would just be manned less. But for us to create our own fire department when we have Ocoee one mile from our border would be financially unreasonable because we pay, what, $600,000 to $700,000 and the fire trucks would cost twice that much.”
Currently, the town has a five-year contract with the City of Ocoee, which responds to calls for service in Windermere. Windermere entered into the contract four years ago at a starting cost of $500,000, but that cost increases $50,000 every year.
Now as the town enters its fifth year into the contract in 2018, the town’s fire protection payment to Ocoee will total $750,000.
Bruhn emphasized he is not championing either proposal and the option is simply being presented to residents for consideration when workshops begin regarding the issue of the town’s needed public facility upgrades.
“It’s only an option and something that will be presented to residents in case it’s something they want to pursue,” he said. “Reason being that it would bring the fire service closer to us and Ocoee would be willing to work with us on it. …. We have one call for service a day. Fires are minimal. Our calls for service are mostly for accidents, heart attacks, people short of breath. So for us to invest millions on a fire department of our own is crazy, but if we were to build a fire station and have (Ocoee) man it, it would provide quicker response times. … So if we could create quicker response times without increasing our costs then that would be something worth investigating.”