Archer weighs options for future of fire rescue

The City of Archer has 12 months to come up with a way to provide fire rescue services since receiving notice from  Alachua County Fire Rescue Chief Harold Theus that the County is canceling its interlocal service agreement as of October 2021.

From August: Alachua County cancels interlock service agreement with Archer.

 At the Sept. 14th commission meeting, Archer City Attorney Scott Walker presented possible solutions for the commission to consider.
“The County has written a letter to the city manager that they are canceling the interlocal agreement between the County and City,” Walker said. 
“The County would like the property deeded to them, not compensate the City for the donation of the property to continue to operate the facility.
“I anticipate the County would maintain and make improvements,” Scott said about the fire station located within city limits at 17128 SW Archer Rd.
According to Chief Theus, the ACFR responded to 481 total incidents in Archer with 170 incidents within the city limits in 2019. 
Chief Theus said the Archer community and businesses have benefited from the current staffing of Station #82 because of the ACFR’s quick emergency response times and lower homeowners insurance premiums based on the ISO (Insurance Services Office) rating of 3 on a scale from 1 to 10 with lowest being best service. 
 “If down the road, the City of Archer gets its own department, they would deed it back and would provide the equipment back,” Scott explained.
The following options were then presented by Scott. Option to A is to enter an arrangement deeding property to the County and it would come back if a future fire rescue department is established by the City of Archer. Option B is to continue to negotiate a sale of property. Option C is to negotiate rental of property and option D is to start a new City fire department.
Archer City Manager Tony Hammond said he asked ACFR Chief Theus what improvements the County would make to the facility if it was deeded to the County.
According to Hammond, Chief Theus answered that the County would paint the inside and outside of the facility, would repair or replace kitchen cabinets and counters, replace safety light beams for apparatus doors, replace or repair the roof and any other necessary changes.
“They would like to enter into an agreement with Archer similar to Waldo and Hawthorne,” Hammond said. “No provisions for reimbursement for original equipment.”
“If we decided to take back the building and that portion of equipment was not in there, then we would have to outfit the building with a brush truck, etc.”
Hammond added that access to the property for the public works department would be necessary.
“If we deeded the property to them, it would just be the building because public works needs access to its building unless you do easement.”
Commissioner Fletcher Hope said, “We certainly as an option could consider the building and the longterm dirt lease.”
Hammond said that the cities of Newberry and Gainesville have expressed interest in providing Archer with fire service, but added that, “Both of those would have a significant cost attached to them compared to the County.”
Commissioner Joani White asked about the amount of MSTU (Municipal Service Taxing Unit) paid by the citizens and how that would be affected by a change in service.
“Archer needs a fire station and I’m willing to work with the County,” White said.
City Manager Hammond then said he would meet with County Chair Robert Hutchinson and Assistant County Manager for Public Safety Carl Smart to discuss the options further.

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