County considers cost of city fire protection

OKEECHOBEE — At their Jan. 8 meeting, Okeechobee County commissioners reviewed the potential cost of adding personnel if the county provides fire protection with the city limits. Last year, the Okeechobee City Council approached the county about the possibility of the county taking over fire protection in the city limits. The county already provides EMT service in the city limits.

Reviewing the staffing, County Fire/Rescue Chief Ralph Franklin said the county currently has three fire engines and four EMT/rescue vehicles. He said to take over fire protection in the city limits, the county would need to add one fire engine.

The contract requires the officer and the driver be paramedics, he said. That leaves the county short two paramedics on each of three shifts, for a total of six paramedics.

In addition, the county would need to add a fire inspector position, which brings the total new positions to seven.

The salaries with benefits, plus cost of medical exam, uniforms, safety gear, bunk room furniture, lockers, etc., for the six paramedics comes to an estimated $575,600 the first year; $580,899 the second year; and $576,303 the third year.

In addition, the cost of a fire inspector (including vehicle, equipment, etc.) is projected at $102,018 the first year; $89,940 the second year; and $92,508 the third year.

Total projected personnel cost for adding fire coverage in the city limits is projected at $677,619 the first year; $670,830 the second year; and, $688,812 the third year.

Other expenses will include the addition of a fire engine, fuel for that vehicle and fire engine vehicle storage. At this point it is unclear if the city would provide the city fire truck as part of the agreement or sell the city fire truck to the county.

Chairman Terry Burroughs suggested the city and county administrators can get together and work out the details and bring back the agreement to the city council and the county commission for discussion.

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