Fla. town spends $200K to clean fire stations

Budget cuts led the city to discontinue bi-annual cleanings at the fire stations; two fire stations had to be closed due to mold and dead mice in air vents

By Attiyya Anthony
Sun Sentinel 

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. — A fiasco that closed two of the city's fire stations ended up costing the city more than $200,000, documents show.

On Tuesday, the city approved the $221,567 in emergency funds spent late last year after Fire Station No. 3 at 3501 N. Congress Ave. and Fire Station No. 1 at 100 E. Boynton Beach Blvd, closed in December due to mold and dead mice in air vents.

The stations reopened in January after an industrial-grade deep cleaning and maintenance work.

In October, after employees complained of a rancid smell, dead rodents were found in the exhaust fan in the women's restroom at the Congress Avenue station.

Those firefighters were relocated to a nearby station and the city contracted a company to clean the facility and conduct air quality tests.

According to a city report, the living quarters, lockers, refrigerators, freezers, HVAC rooms and personal areas were not well-maintained in the Congress Avenue station.

"The refrigerator had expired food, lockers were cluttered with clothes at the bottom, and bunk rooms had food wrappers… all of this contributed to the overall lack of cleanliness of the stations," the report states.

According to the report, due to budget cuts in 2008, the city could not afford it's bi-annual industrial cleaning and opted to perform the cleaning services in-house.

But that hasn't been good enough.

"Public Works identified that basic routine maintenance being performed in-house was not sufficient to address the volume and demands of citywide maintenance issues," the report shows.

Interim Fire Chief Greg Hoggatt said that the fire department will begin implementing the in-depth cleanings in the spring and the fall and encourage the firefighters to be cleaner.

"We are taking a more active approach to make sure the firefighters treat the fire stations as their home," Hoggatt said at a recent meeting.

The city has eight active Worker's Compensation claims that stem from the incident, said Tim McPherson, the city's risk manager.

Commissioner Joe Casello said that better budgeting is necessary for the sake of the city's employees.

"What I really care about is the welfare of the people who work in these buildings," he said. "The city has to provide them with a safe work environment."

Commissioner Mack McCray said that he hopes the city can learn from its mistakes

"I hope we don't have to go down this road again," he said. "This is $221,000 that I really wish we could have saved."

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