AP approves new fire assessment study

AVON PARK - City Manager Julian Deleon believes the fire assessment could be lowered and city council approved to pay for a new study to assure that residents and businesses pay their fair share in supporting the fire department. The current data for the city’s fire assessment dates “all the way back to 2002,” Deleon told the city council at its Monday meeting. That methodology is based on the historical callouts, which is what determines the residential rate and the rates for the various business/commercial categories. The law firm of Bryan Miller and Olive (BMO) has developed a new methodology using data from the property appraiser’s office, he said. “With all the current growth that we are experiencing, I am projecting that as we move forward and possibly look at this new methodology, we may be able to lower rates,” Deleon said. “However, in order to pass an assessment you have to formally conduct a study and develop that methodology.”
Government Services Group Inc. (GSG) submitted a proposal of $40,000 to update the city’s current study, which does not include court validation, he said. BMO is proposing to perform the fire assessment study for $25,000 plus a maximum of $75,000 for the court validation, which prepares the city if somebody challenges the assessment, Deleon said. Deleon recommend the BMO study. This is the same law firm that helped the city annex South Florida State College, he said. Former mayor Tom Macklin said he has been an advocate for having another fire assessment done. In the past, due to the expense, council didn’t want a new study. “I would concur with Mr. Deleon that now is certainly the time to do it,” he said. Mayor Sharon Schuler said some businesses do not need fire services as often as the 2002 study shows. “We need to do this so that businesses are treated fairly,” she said. Councilman Garrett Anderson said more research should be done and the city should seek more quotes. Deleon said the city sought quotes based on the historic callout methodology GSG used in its original study for the city, but only GSG responded. Council voted 4-1 to have BMO conduct the fire assessment study. Anderson cast the “no” vote. Residential units currently pay an annual fire assessment of $165. In total, the fire assessment generated $922,178 in the 2011-12 fiscal year, which was about 71 percent of the $1.3 million fire department budget. In other action, council voted unanimously to name two of the four fields at the Durrah Martin Baseball Complex in honor of father and son Major League Baseball players who grew up in Avon Park - Thomas Gordon, a retired pitcher, and Devaris Gordon, a Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop. City Administrative Services Director Maria Sutherland said the Gordons had learned about a couple of baseball fields that were slated to be renovated with funds from various baseball and business foundations. “Thomas Gordon was kind enough to redirect those funds to Avon Park, insisting that they come here and not go to Orlando,” she said. Some of the local baseball groups requested that the two Durrah Martin fields that will be rehabilitated be named after the Gordons – one named in honor of Thomas and the other in honor of Devaris. Sutherland said Wednesday that representatives from Ripken Baseball measured and assessed the fields recently and estimated that $35,000 will be spent for the improvements. They will mill the whole field and bring in fill dirt where needed and put in anchors for the bases and all the things that will make it a state-of-the-art type of a field, Sutherland said.

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