MARIANNA, Fla. (WMBB)–Over ten years ago, the City of Marianna and Jackson County entered into a contract with Family Dollar.
“That contract required that the City and the County provide a fire station within a certain distance of the Family Dollar center,” said Jim Dean, Marianna City Manager.
The fire station is now located at 3990 Kynesville Road.
But in 2016, that contract expired. Leaving the City solely responsible to cover the fire station’s operations. Previously, they had received assistance from both Family Dollar and Jackson County. But, after a while, both parties were no longer able to assist them.
“That $300,000…$250,000 [a year] has become a significant cost to the City of Marianna,” Dean said.
The City’s proposed solution? To close fire station 2 and combine it with fire station 1.
“If we look at it right now, no one would lose their job,” Dean said.
Dean says that the City functioned efficiently before the second fire station was built. And with Marianna’s population on a decline, he believes they will function just fine with one station. With no contract in place mandating the existence of a second fire station, Dean says there are not many reasons to keep it.
But Marianna Firefighters are speaking out. They say the restructuring poses a public safety issue.
“Closing this station down means less protection for this side of the City, and we feel like, you know the union stands against that you know we feel the east side deserves as much protection as the west side,” said Jeremy O’Bryan, Marianna Professional Firefighters President.
The City defends their proposal, records showing that of all the calls the fire station responds to, 60% are EMS related and less than 10% are fire-related.
”Are we an EMS department or are we a fire department?” Dean asks.
But firefighters disagree. They believe medical calls are still important and closing the station cuts response time.
“This station’s just so much closer to the interstate, to Family Dollar, the west side businesses and residences that are obviously on this side of the city,” O’Bryan said.
O’Bryan says Marianna Fire is in a mutual-aide agreement with Jackson County Fire Rescue. Marianna firefighters assist JCFR with structure fires and wildland fires, and vehicle fires often.
O’Bryan also says the advanced trucks at fire station 2 would not fit at fire station 1, leaving them with nowhere to house the engines that they depend on.
But the City believes restructuring is financially responsible. If they do not move forward with restructuring, there are also other routes to consider.
“We can do nothing and keep going like we’re doing or we can raise the millage rate and the taxes on our citizens,” Dean said.
The proposal will be discussed at the next City Commission meeting on February 4th.