Brooksville votes to keep fire department

-  After more than two hours of debate, the Brooksville City Council voted to keep the city’s fire department. 

A proposed plan would have firefighting duties handed over to the county. 

Councilwoman Natalie Kahler said city leaders have been discussing this possibility of a transfer for more than a year, but talks with the county stalled when former the fire chief, David Freda, was arrested on fraud charges last year.

Since then, Brooksville has had trouble filling all 18 of its firefighter positions.

"We've had basically a revolving door since that time. Even this year, I believe we've hired 10 and lost eight," Kahler said, adding she didn't want to close down the department but now believes it's necessary. "Obviously that was not my first hope. I thought we could restructure and save it, but I don't see a way for us to get rebuilt quick enough for the safety of the people to be assured."

Three months ago, the city council voted to dissolve the Brooksville Police Department and have the Hernando County Sheriff's Office take over policing duties.

Closing down the police and fire departments are expected to save the city more than $3 million.

Some residents, however, worry that safety will be sacrificed.

"I've heard that Hernando County is booming and to take away the services that we have already -- if we're getting bigger, we're going to have a problem with that," said Dawn Houts. "When they took the police department away, I thought 'Well, great, we have less crime.' So I guess my question is, do we have less fires?"

City Manager Mark Kutney is assuring the community safety is still the top priority.

"We would want to make sure that any agreement with Hernando County that we would be delivering those services in an efficient and effective way," he said.

Council voted 4-1 to keep the current system in place. 

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