Manalapan to seek county fire-rescue services

By Tim O'Meilia, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 30, 2003

MANALAPAN -- Town commissioners bowed to the inevitable Tuesday, voting unanimously to seriously negotiate the purchase of fire-rescue service from Palm Beach County.

"Our best option -- and they have great service -- is to go with the county," said Town Manager Greg Dunham, who was backed by Public Safety Director Clay Walker.

The town will send county fire-rescue officials an "intent to negotiate" and involve Town Attorney Trela White in the contract negotiations.

Although talks with the county have been ongoing, town officials also have been talking with South Palm Beach and Ocean Ridge about continuing their fire service partnership. But Ocean Ridge is working out a deal with Boynton Beach and South Palm Beach has indicated it will sign with the county as well.

Walker said the residential town doesn't need the level of service the county offers, but the cost is cheaper than to join with South Palm Beach and maintain its own fire department. Both towns contract rescue service with a private firm and both cross-train police officers as firefighters.

Town officials estimated a jointly operated department would cost $555,000 in the budget year beginning Oct. 1, compared with $373,500 with the county, assuming a contract was signed by April 2004. The cost difference would not be as great in the 2004-05 budget year, about $50,000.

In other business, commissioners asked the town attorney to write a draft of a charter change that would allow oceanfront landowners to own and maintain their own sea walls. In a survey of the 39 seaside properties, 23 wanted control, five wanted to continue under town control, one wanted the town to set standards for private control and 10 didn't respond.

The town charter requires the town to keep the 1.6-mile wall in repair and assess the homeowners. But some owners balked when the commission began making plans because initial estimates showed the costs would vary from $22,000 to $112,000 per property.

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