Palm Coast's Fire Station 22 is old, and it's small — so much so that standard modern fire trucks, the kind the city uses at other stations, won't fit inside its bays. The city has to have apparatus custom built for it.Its living quarters for firefighters are also inadequate: 16 share one bunk room.
"Let them vote or not vote for it. Let them learn how to tighten their belts and stop buying moldy buildings."
— ED DANKO, city councilman
It needs replacement, not renovation, Fire Chief Jerry Forte told City Council members at a June 22 council meeting.
Meanwhile, he said, the city also needs to add new stations in the Seminole Woods Parkway area and the Whiteview Parkway area, where response times can be as long as 12-14 minutes and 8-10 minutes, respectively. The department aims to have a 7-minute response time 85% of the time.
At the Flagler County Sheriff's Office, the agency hopes to add more deputies to cope with Palm Coast's rising population.
Forte and Sheriff's Office Chief of Staff Mark Strobridge spoke before the council June 22, laying out the costly needs of their respective agencies (Strobridge was standing in for Sheriff Rick Staly, who was out of town), to press the council to support the county government's push to raise the county's sales tax by half a cent.
The county currently has a half-cent sales tax. It's considering adding another half-cent, bringing the overall total sales tax to 7.5 cents, including the state's 6-cent sales tax and school district's half-cent sales tax.
Some of that money flows to city coffers — Palm Coast got $3.26 million this part year — to fund things like public safety initiatives.
The county had requested local city elected boards' support for the tax incase. It didn't get it in Palm Coast.
"The county has asked us to simply support their tax increase. This is a county tax increase," City Councilman Ed Danko said. "This is not the city of Palm Coast. ... Do they not lack the courage to pass this tax increase on their own? They need us to get behind them first?"
Councilman Victor Barbosa was concerned that raising the sales tax would drive shoppers to cross county lines and go elsewhere for better prices.
Councilman Nick Klufas thought it unlikely that people would be driving out of the county just to avoid paying an extra 50 cents on a $100 purchase.
Forte said the city Fire Department is on the verge of raising its ISO rating from a 2 to a 1, which would lead to lower homeowners' insurance rates. Paying for the improvements using sales tax money would mean that out-town-visitors, as well as residents, would share the burden, he said.
Danko asked how much money it would save for residents. City staff didn't know.
"Let the county figure out what they're going to do," Danko said. "Let them vote or not vote for it. Let them learn how to tighten their belts and stop buying moldy buildings. But I don't want them coming to us for cover to get a tax increase."