MARCO ISLAND — At Monday’s special-called meeting, the city’s Utilities Advisory Board (UAB) revealed that many Island fire hydrants cannot provide adequate protection for residents.
A memo prepared by the public works department explains, “the issue of concern is the distance between fire hydrants and certain residential properties. Many properties are not within 500 feet of a fire hydrant and some are in excess of 1,000 feet. City Council requested that the UAB review this issue and report back to City Council prior to establishing the FY11 Water and Sewer Department budget.”
“We consider this a safety issue and it should be addressed as soon as possible,” Ken Honecker, chairman of the UAB, explained to Council. “We took an outside of the box approach by recommending that 1,000 feet would cover us. Six million will get us to all fire hydrants in 1,000 feet.”
Honecker recommended borrowing from the general fund for the project and repayment of funds by the water and sewer department using operating funds.
Chairman Frank Recker asked of the number of inadequate hydrants, “Where is the hard evidence for this? Is it just anecdotal?”
An alternative to funding a utility project would be to provide the city with a fire truck equipped with a tanker/pumper, according to Mike Murphy, fire chief.
The tanker would be less expensive, costing about $250,000 per year to lease and staff, and would eliminate the issue of distance of fire hydrants.
“We had a fire call the other day. The house was 1,800 feet from the hydrant. That would have taken three trucks to get water to the scene if there had been a fire. You also have the consideration that the trucks are now not available for other calls,” explained Murphy.
“This is not an economic thing, this is a fire response. It bothers me that this wasn’t brought up when we were discussing the millage rate,” said Councilman Bill Trotter.
“Is it water capacity issue or a fire resource?” asked Councilman Larry Magel.
The tanker has other benefits. Murphy explained that the fire department had to borrow Golden Gate’s tanker last week during a water main break. The truck would also be a water source during hurricane disasters for issues such as power line wash down.
“I need to understand the financing a little better, but I don’t want to take too long because this is a safety issue,” said Trotter.
Further discussion of the issue was moved to the next Council meeting.