BRADENTON – West Manatee Fire Rescue’s February commission meeting started out on a happy note as two of their own were promoted, a new staff member was welcomed and a team received chief’s coins for their work in the community.
Kicking the meeting off, commissioners welcomed new administrative assistant Andrea Berggren, who took the oath of office and was greeted personally by each commissioner.
Continuing the festivities, WMFR leaders recognized Chad Brunner and Tyler MacDonald who were elevated to the rank of captain. MacDonald’s son was even on-hand to pin his father’s badge on his uniform.
The non-transit advanced life support team of firefighters Frank Agresta and John Balzer, along with Lt. John Stump, were presented with chief’s coins by Administrative Battalion Chief Jay Johnson for going above and beyond in their service to the community. Johnson said he’d spoken with a woman whose husband was having a hard time entering their Island home and had fallen. The firefighters showed up to help the man up and then they returned to the fire station to build a step to make it easier for him to access his home without falling down. Johnson said he’d received many thanks and compliments from the man’s wife for the actions of the firefighters.
Once the festivities were over, commissioners moved on to other business, including discussions concerning the district’s new administrative home.
In January, commissioners were presented with the opportunity to purchase an additional piece of land complete with a shell building in a commercial area near Blake Medical Center. Commissioner Randy Cooper reported to his fellow commissioners during the February meeting that he had viewed the property and didn’t recommend pursuing the purchase, stating that he felt it doesn’t meet the district’s needs.
In 2019, commissioners purchased a large commercial lot located behind the Fountain Court Shopping Center off of Manatee Avenue and have already engaged the services of an architecture firm to help plan the new building.
Commissioner George Harris said that he would like the district’s leaders to keep all of their options open for the moment. Commissioner Al Robinson said he was disappointed that his fellow commissioners had dismissed the possibility of purchasing the other lot with the shell building, saying he felt it could save the district money in the long run when weighed against the expense of new construction.
During the meeting, commissioners voted four to one with Robinson dissenting to accept a contract for construction manager at risk with Creative Contractors Inc. for the new administration building. The contract grants Creative Contractors payment of 5.5% of the actual cost of work for the construction of the new administration building and includes a bond percentage of 0.81% with 0.82% of construction costs going to insurance.
“It’s been great working with them so far,” Chief Ben Rigney said.
There’s no timetable set yet for construction on the new administration building.
Commissioners also reviewed the 2019 annual report.
Johnson presented the annual report, stating that it reflects the district’s purchase of new air packs and the launch of non-transport ALS service at all three district fire stations. He said the district had a 3% increase in calls in 2019 with 67% of those being medical calls. He added that there were 45 fire incidents that WMFR firefighters responded to in 2019, including 14 building fires. He said the district’s response time improved 27 seconds over the previous year.
Community members are invited to review the annual report online.