The City of Gainesville may be growing in the near future and offer emergency fire services to more people.
The Gainesville City Commission is looking to annex the unincorporated urbanized areas just beyond city limits in an effort to combat possible slower fire rescue response times after the termination of the fire service assistance agreement.
The FSAA is an agreement that states that the closest fire station, whether it be city or county, will respond to the incident whether or not it’s in their zone and be reimbursed by the other party. Alachua County commissioners voted to terminate the FSAA, according to the General Policy Committee meeting agenda. As a result, the city and county fire stations will stick to their specific zones when responding to incidents, regardless of proximity, starting June 1, 2018.
Some people, including Commissioner Harvey Budd, are concerned that it will slow the response time of first responders. Budd experienced a fire in his own Gainesville home and said he believes that the proximity to a fire station is what prevented his house from burning down.
“Do you wait until someone has a death because someone didn’t get there in time? We’re talking life and death,” he said.
City fire stations respond to about 25 percent of county calls, and county fire stations respond to about 8 percent of city calls, the Gainesville Sun reported.
Some unincorporated neighborhoods have already made efforts to voluntarily annex themselves, like Sterling Place. During the general policy meeting, one resident of Sterling Place told city commissioners the neighborhood had already put together a committee to move forward with the annexation process.
Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe recalled that past annexation attempts have been unsuccessful because people have been adamant about remaining outside of Gainesville. He feels that people living in those unincorporated areas will be more willing to join the city now.
“I think one big thing that’s changed between our last failed annexations and now is the reputation of the city has improved greatly,” Poe said.