HAWTHORNE – Moving the fire department back to the city of Hawthorne was the focus of Tuesday’s joint meeting between county and city commissioners.

An Alachua County Fire Rescue station in Grove Park is currently serving the city, but Hawthorne commissioners proposed that the station be moved back to the original location in Hawthorne. No motion was made at the meeting, but county commissioners directed county staff to provide the city with an update within 90 days.

The conversation between Alachua County Fire Rescue and the City of Hawthorne is complicated, at best.

The Alachua County Fire Rescue station was asked to relocate after the City of Hawthorne established its own fire department in the fall of 2007. The city run fire department came about due in part to a dispute about the amount of money Hawthorne owed the county for fire services. The transition also included moving an ambulance to Grove Park.

Facing financial problems, Hawthorne commissioners were forced to cut both the city’s fire and police departments, leaving the city with an abandoned fire station.

Now, city commissioners want to move the station from Grove Park, and closer to the center of the community.

Hawthorne Mayor Matthew Surrency told commissioners that most of the calls to the Grove Park station either originated in Hawthorne or rescue workers had to pass through Hawthorne to respond.

County Commissioner Mike Byerly swiftly expressed support for the discussion, saying that he believed the current station was not at an optimal location. To move forward, the city would need to take a leadership role in paying for refurbishing the abandoned fire station, he said.

The mayor added that a new roof would be completed within 30 days.

County Commissioner Susan Baird noted that while the numbers show more incidents in Hawthorne, the current location has more coverage geographically than the proposed Hawthorne location.

Former Hawthorne mayor John Martin said county commissioners should not punish the city for the government’s decision.

“Hawthorne has been on probation long enough,” Martin said.

A fire station is vital to a community not only in terms of service, but also in community spirit, he said.

Byerly responded by saying that moving the fire station was no small task. The past may even call for legal insurances so that history doesn’t repeat itself.

County commissioner Paula Delaney said the historical tension between the city and county fire services was water under the bridge.

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