Highland Beach: Agreement close for new fire-rescue equipment, services

By Rich Pollack

    After months of negotiation, the town of Highland Beach is close to signing a fire and rescue service agreement with Delray Beach that would make it possible to have a new fire truck and a new rescue truck in its station.
    Last month, Highland Beach town officials voted to sign an agreement with the city of Delray Beach — pending approval of final cost numbers — that would enable the city’s fire-rescue department to continue to staff the town’s fire station and provide service to its residents and visitors.
    The agreement is expected to go before the Delray Beach City Commission for approval later this month.
    “This proposed agreement accomplished a number of points that are favorable to the town,” Town Manager Beverly Brown told commissioners during a special meeting to discuss the agreement last month.  
    In addition to covering the cost of personnel, the agreement will make it possible for Delray Beach to purchase both a ladder truck and a rescue truck that would serve Highland Beach.
    Delray Beach would then lease the equipment back to Highland Beach with the town having the option to buy the fire truck after 10 years for $10. The town also would have the ability to buy the rescue truck for $10 after Delray has made the final payment to the manufacturer.
    “The proposed agreement provides for an immediate purchase of an aerial ladder truck and the future purchase of a rescue vehicle to be paid at cost only,” Brown told the commission.
    The agreement also spells out that Highland Beach will pay for maintenance of the truck at cost only and will pay for operating overhead fees at cost only.
    It’s estimated that the fire truck will cost $832,000, with Delray Beach receiving a multivehicle discount because it will be ordering two trucks for the city department’s use. The rescue unit is expected to cost about $335,000, and the town will also pick up its share of the finance charges.
    Highland Beach is still using its own 12-year-old rescue truck but Delray Beach Fire-Rescue Chief Danielle Connor told town commissioners that the vehicle is past its prime.
    “This truck has earned its stripes and it needs to be replaced,” she said.
    Highland Beach leases a ladder truck from Delray for about $8,500 a month, since the town’s 20-year-old truck — which was frequently out of service — was sold at auction last year.  Connor explained to Highland Beach commissioners that there will be times when the ladder truck assigned to the town will be across the bridge for training, maintenance or assistance with other calls. She said, however, that she will provide the town with reports to document those events.
    “At all times fire apparatus and personnel are available to respond to residents of Highland Beach,” she said later. “In instances of training or employee physicals, for example, Delray Beach Fire-Rescue will provide a unit to staff the Highland Beach fire station.”
    The Delray Beach chief estimates that once both municipalities have signed the agreements and placed the orders, it could still take 10 to 11 months before the fire truck arrives and a year for the new rescue vehicle to be in service.
    In other business, Highland Beach Mayor Bernard Featherman will be hosting his annual Coffee with Mayor Featherman gathering on Jan. 13 at 9:30 a.m. at the Highland Beach Library.
    The mayor will present a recap of the town’s accomplishments in 2015 and will discuss plans for 2016. There will also be an open forum for residents to discuss concerns and suggestions for improvements.
    Coffee with Mayor Featherman will also feature a presentation by Claudette Jones, RN, MSN, who will talk about stroke issues and prevention measures that can be taken.
    For additional information call town hall at 278-4548.

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