Jupiter Town Council directs consulting agency to help develop fire department

Published: Sep. 5, 2023 at 10:10 PM EDT
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Despite pleas from citizens, the town of Jupiter is moving forward with plans to form its own fire department in three years and ties with Palm Beach County Fire Rescue to be severed.

On Tuesday, the council approved by a 4-1 vote a contract with the Center for Public Safety Management LLC to provide technical assistance in developing and implementing the town of Jupiter Fire and Rescue Services Department.

In late 2022, the town of Jupiter contracted with a company to develop a sustainability and feasibility study.

On Aug. 15, the council directed the staff to create plans for implementation.

The town already has a police department.

Before the vote Tuesday, citizens voiced their opposition to the proposal with their comments drawing cheers.

"First responders with ambition will come to us only for experience and then look elsewhere for promotional opportunities," one woman said. "That is the reality with a small-town department."

She added that "it's all about dollars and cents" as she puled out cash as a prop.

One woman said it is "selfish and disgraceful to the residents who live here."

She said people should have been able to vote on this.

Another woman said 2,000 people have signed a petition to keep Palm Beach County Fire Rescue.

"It is clear that money is the only thing that matters to you," she said.

One firefighter wearing a battalion chief shirt that read "Hollywood Fire Department" noted the problems of having a small agency.

That includes having to rely on mutual aid when there is a big incident. Plus, the county agency has more resources, including special operations and water rescue.

"Please don't do this," he said.

Patrick Kennedy, who is Palm Beach County's fire chief, told the council members he disputed figures from consultants on $68 million in savings over 10 years.

He asked them to consider the 42-year relationship with the county agency.

Initial startup costs to purchase equipment and build and renovate stations are estimated to be about the same as the savings of $68 million. It will be paid for through a combination of cash, financial debt and ad valorem taxes.

One person who spoke in favor of the new department drew little applause.

In July, the town of Jupiter and Palm Beach County executed a 10-year agreement to provide services to Jupiter.

Under the new agreement, the town would have to notify the county of the termination 36 months ahead of time.

Plans call for 93 staff positions, including 18 in command and 75 24-hour weekly shift positions.

Palm Beach County Fire Rescue has three fire stations in Jupiter: 3550 Miltary Trail, 777 N. U.S. 1 and 322 N. Central Blvd. There is also a station in unincorporated Jupiter Farms at 12015 W. Indiantown Road.

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