By Steve Plunkett   

Delray Beach will charge the Town of Gulf Stream about $38,000 a year extra for fire-rescue service to Ballantrae condominiums, the 4001 North Ocean project and other recently annexed parcels.
    Delray Beach city commissioners voted 3-1 to raise Gulf Stream’s annual fee almost 12 percent to $353,321 from the previously agreed-upon $315,580 which already was $15,035 more than the town paid this year. They also decided to make the increase effective March 15, the date of the annexation.
    “I think we’re being as equitable as we can possibly be,’’ Delray Beach Mayor Woodie McDuffie said at the Aug. 2 meeting.
    Gulf Stream annexed the unincorporated county pocket in March, bringing 16.6 acres and at least 90 registered voters into the town. The area also has a sizable contingent of snowbirds.
    Gulf Stream’s population was 786 in the 2010 Census, taken before the annexation.
    The first year’s and the first full year’s fire-rescue increase will not be due until Dec. 2012, after Gulf Stream collects its first property taxes directly from the annexed area. The properties are part of the county’s tax base until Jan. 1.
    Gulf Stream commissioners still have to accept the increase.
    Delray Beach funds three-fourths of its $20 million fire-rescue budget with taxes from its 64,000 residents. The rest comes from Gulf Stream; Highland Beach, which will pay the city $2.96 million to protect its 4,300 residents; and ambulance fees.
    Also Aug. 2, Delray Beach commissioners accepted a $595,982 Homeland Security grant to pay the salaries of four firefighter/paramedics for two years at Station 2, which also serves Gulf Stream.         That station’s fire engine has not been fully staffed like the city’s other engines, meaning it had to wait for backup when first on the scene.
    According to Assistant Delray Beach Fire-Rescue Chief, Russ Accardi, the ambulance is currently  staffed from 8 a.m.- 8 p.m., Monday-Friday. With the new grant, “the ambulance will be staffed 24-hours, seven days a week,” he said. The grant stipulates that Delray Beach must pay at least the third year of the four salaries.

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