The City Scuttles a new Facility After Neighbors Object
By Lizzie Wilcox
The debate lasted two hours at City Hall, and in the end the City Commission voted against a new fire station near the Cartagena Plaza roundabout, where Le Jeune Road, Sunset Drive and Old Cutler Road meet.
The proposed fire station at 7000 Old Cutler Rd. required approval from four out of five commissioners, but Michael Mena and Vincent Lago voted no. The location was proposed to improve response times to the area. Deputy Fire Chief Marcos De La Rosa explained that response times are critical for major medical emergencies. “For every minute that goes by, the chance of survival reduces by 10 percent,” he said.
The location at 7000 Old Cutler Rd. was chosen because of its proximity to major roads and its elevation – at 18 feet above sea level, it’s safe from storm floods.
Commissioner Mena and Vice Mayor Lago opposed the acquisition because the price of the land had skyrocketed to $4 million, far above the city’s offer of $1.3 million. Many residents – in matching T-shirts with a NO symbol through a fire truck – voiced opposition to a fire station in their neighborhood. “I don’t want to put a commercial facility in a residential neighborhood,” Lago agreed.
Commissioner Frank Queseda supported the acquisition, taking a more emotional stance. Six years ago, he lost a colleague in the area due to slow response time. “I lost someone who should be here today,” he said. Commissioner Patricia Keon also voted yes, calling quick response time “an essential service.” Ten years ago, her husband died from an aneurism after first responders took 14 minutes to get to her Edgewater Drive home.
Mayor Raul Valdés-Fauli didn’t voice his opinion until the end of the long discussion.
“We thought the existing stations were not adequate because of the traffic,” he said. “[But] the residents and the neighbors have spoken and you do not want it.” A resolution was made to look for other properties along the Sunset corridor. Coral Gables now has three fire stations, the closest of which is at 525 S. Dixie Hwy, near UM.