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Jupiter Town Council directs staff to create its own fire department

Palm Beach County Fire Rescue will continue to provide services until changeover expected in 3 years
Fire truck, generic
Posted at 11:05 PM, Aug 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-16 13:29:25-04

JUPITER, Fla. — The Jupiter Town Council on Tuesday night directed its staff to create the Jupiter Fire Rescue Department with services projected to start in 2026, joining its current police department.

Until then, the town will continue to receive rescue services from Palm Beach County Fire Rescue under the current interlocal agreement. 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.

The county fire department, which has 49 stations, currently provides services for municipalities that include Belle Glade, Cloud Lake, Glen Ridge, Haverhill, Juno Beach, Jupiter, Lake Clarke Shores, Lake Park, Lake Worth Beach, Lantana, Loxahatchee Groves, Manalapan, Pahokee, Palm Springs, Royal Palm Beach, South Bay, South Palm Beach, Wellington, West Lake.

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

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In July, the Town Council voted to stick with the county agency on the advice of its finance director, Scott Reynolds.

But Jupiter officials said their own department will "deliver excellent levels of service at a lower, more sustainable cost to residents and businesses," according to a news release after the meeting.

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

Palm Beach County Fire Rescue's costs to provide service to Jupiter have risen from $20 million in 2020 to a proposed budget of $28 million for fiscal year 2024, according to the town. By the end of the 10-year interlocal agreement, which runs through 2033, the projected PBCFR budget will be $44 million.

In 2024, a homesteaded property valued at $550,000 will pay about $951 to PBCFR for fire rescue services. Because the agreement with PBCFR contains cost categories without maximums, that number could be much higher, the town said. In the first year of operation of the Jupiter Fire Rescue Department (2026), a homesteaded Jupiter property valued at $550,000 would pay about $533 for fire-rescue services, according to the town.

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Over the 10-year timeframe of the interlocal agreement, Jupiter taxpayers will save about $68 million by establishing the Jupiter Fire Rescue Department, when compared to maintaining the agreement with Palm Beach County Fire Rescue.

The council is planning local control over costs, operations and levels of service.

In late 2022, the town of Jupiter contracted with the Center for Public Safety Management, affiliated with the International City & County Managers Association, to conduct a Fire & EMS Sustainability & Feasibility Study that explored different options for service delivery for the services.
Next steps in the process include exercising the termination clause in the contract with Palm Beach County Fire Rescue; appropriating funds for equipment, vehicles and other apparatus; reviewing funding strategies and mechanisms; and reviewing key milestones.

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.