Landscaping secured for fire stations

Firefighters no longer responsible for lawn upkeep.

101420_BA_MCFRSta282_NWS The new Marion County Fire Rescue Station 28 in Rolling Greens is shown in Ocala, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. The station was built entirely with funding raised through the Penny Sales Tax. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2020.

Home » Government
Posted March 6, 2024 | By Caroline Brauchler

Marion County firefighters will no longer have to mow the grass outside their fire stations after the county approved a contract with landscapers to allow the crews to rest and respond to calls.

The Marion County Commission on Tuesday approved a contract with Southern Lawn Care Mid Florida Inc. after hearing from Marion County Fire Rescue Chief James Banta, who argued that times have changed over the past 45 years that firefighters have done yard work at their stations.

“Pulling the lawn responsibility away is a good thing to just provide (firefighters) additional downtime and rest and relaxation,” he said.

The annual contract will cost the county about $45,000 for the rest of this year and $95,000 each year after that for landscaping services at Marion County’s 31 fire stations. Before hiring lawn care professionals, it cost $35,000 to maintain the equipment that firefighters used to mow the lawns.

Commissioner Carl Zalak described this move as a cultural change, questioning the proposal by saying the younger generation of firefighters won’t understand the effort necessary to maintain their stations.

“When I was a young kid, it got drilled into you, that you take care of your place,” Zalak said, reminiscing on his responsibilities in the home as a child. “The way you do those things, the way you present that feature, it tells us about who you are and tells us about the crews.”

Banta countered that the department wants to place more emphasis on professionalism to allow the stations to look more put together, and that a professional lawn service would be more equipped for the beautification of the fire stations.

As for firefighters’ responsibilities around the station, Joe Romani, vice president of the Professional Firefighters of Marion County, said the crews are always busy because “Everything you have to do at home, we have to do at the firehouse.

“Every station has to follow a set list of daily duties,’’ he said, “and my daily chores are established by the department. Some stations go a little further than what is just the basic requirements of mopping, cleaning, taking out the trash and all that.”

Firefighters are additionally responsible for washing all vehicles at the station in between calls, in addition to grocery shopping and cooking.

“Securing the lawn care for the station allows us to be ready to respond,” Romani said. “It takes something off of our plate that allows us to not have to mow the yard at 8 o’clock at night because we’ve had a busy day or training.”

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