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Commissioners approve $3.99M purchase of vacant lots for fire station

By Staff | Jan 15, 2020

The Fort Myers Beach Fire Department plans to build a new Station 31 to replace the existing station at 3043 Estero Boulevard at the intersection of Donora Blvd. The current station dates back to the 1950s. NATHAN MAYBERG

The Fort Myers Beach Board of Fire Commissioners has approved a contract brought forward by Chief Matthew Love to spend $3,992,000 on two vacant lots at 2545 and 2555 Estero Boulevard to build a new fire station.

The board voted 4-0 on Jan. 8 to approve the purchase of the empty lots which are situated adjacent to the town hall. The site formerly housed Topps Supermarket, which closed in 2018. Voting in favor of the purchase were Chairman Larry Wood, Vice Chair Ron Fleming, Commissioner John Bennett and Commissioner Jacki Liszak. Commissioner and board secretary Bob Raymond was not in attendance.

The two properties have a total assessed taxable valuation of $2,124,090 according to Lee County property tax records. They are owned by Victor Holcomb and John Holcomb, trustees for the Virginia Kaul Trust.

The department has been looking to replace Station 31, which is at 3043 Estero Boulevard at the intersection of Donora Boulevard since a 2017 study showed that the station requires improvements for accessibility. Another issue is that the station is unable to house a ladder truck, which it considers important during a time of growth for the town. Therefore, the department has taken on a policy of replacing the fire station, which dates back to the 1950s.

“It’s at the end of its useful life,” said Executive Assistant Chief Ron Martin. “Nothing is hazardous,” he said. The department is “evaluating several different options” for the future of Station 31, he said. Martin referred further questions to Love, who did not return messages seeking comment.

This empty lot, adjacent to the Fort Myers Beach Town Hall, has been approved for purchase by the Fort Myers Beach Board of Fire Commissioners for $3,992,000 as the new site for the department's Fire Station 31. The lot was previously the home of Topps Supermarket. NATHAN MAYBERG

The fire department has three batallions and also has stations at San Carlos Boulevard (Station 32) and on Lenell Road (Station 33) off Estero Boulevard near Santini Marina Plaza.

According to the town’s website, there are more than 60 personnel in the department including more than two dozen who are both firefighters and medics. The department’s current budget allocates $10.7 million to its personnel with total operating expenditures at $13.8 million. In addition, the department has $8.5 million in designated fund balance bringing its total expenditures and reserves to $22.3 million.

Wood said the board is “extremely excited that we are able to find a property on the beach large enough and affordable.” Wood said the location, closer to Times Square and near the town hall, library and school made it “a perfect fit.

“Property on the island is very expensive,” Wood said.

Mayor Anita Cereceda, whose board is separate from the fire department, called the purchase “a bold act and I think that they are looking forward to the future. From the outside looking in, it appears to be a good decision.”

Last year, the town board considered a hotel and commercial development proposed for the lots.