Bayport is asking the state Legislature to give the city land for a new fire station for $1 or no cost at all. At the same time the city is pursuing an option that would allow it to buy the land for up to $150,000.
On March 3 the city council unanimously approved a resolution supporting the acquisition of the land by either means.
The property in question is 4.2 acres of land at Fifth Avenue and Stagecoach Trail, the southwest corner of the state prison property in Bayport. Officials have determined the prison no longer needs the land and have designated it “surplus” land.
City Administrator Logan Martin called the location “ideal” for a new station because it gives firefighters fast access to Highway 36, allows fire engines to access the station from two sides and moves the station closer to the center of the department’s service area.
According to Fire Chief Mark Swenson, that could drastically reduce homeowners insurance costs for customers in parts of the service region, such as West Lakeland, because it would put them within five miles of a station. He said it would not affect costs for homeowners in Bayport proper, because they would still be within a five-mile radius of the station.
Martin said the city has preliminary support for a construction cost-sharing plan and 15-year lease from all the entities it serves except West Lakeland, and officials will seek preliminary approval there next week.
City staff have had the site in question examined for soil quality and contamination and have determined it would be suitable for a fire station.
The state has already designated the parcel as “surplus,” beginning a process under which the land becomes available to other state agencies for four weeks. Martin said that time has already lapsed and that the process dictates the parcel now be made available to cities, counties and school districts at market value.
Logan said the state has valued the property in the neighborhood of $100,000, but the city hasn’t been able to nail down an exact figure.
“I’ve been pushing on the state pretty hard and have not been able to get a straight answer from them as to when we can get a dollar amount and when the land will be offered to us,” he said.
But the preferred method for acquiring the land is through special legislation. Martin said state statute requires the city to pay for the land, but other cities have received exceptions through special legislation in the past.
Bayport officials have met with local legislators and don’t believe there are any major roadblocks to passing special legislation.
“We expect that the legislative process will be successful,” Martin said.
Nevertheless, he asked the council to approve spending up to $150,000 to acquire the land, because the city will have only four weeks to respond when the state offers the land to cities, counties and school districts. Martin said it’s important for staff to be able to tell the state it has council approval to buy the land. A final purchase agreement would still need to be approved by the council, and the state has indicated it is willing to delay closing until after the issue of special legislation is resolved. That means the city wouldn’t have to pay for the land if the special legislation passes.
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