KEY WEST, FL – Sixteenth Judicial Circuit Judge Timothy Koenig ruled during a hearing Wednesday that a lease agreement between the Sugarloaf Volunteer Fire Department and a cell tower company was void by virtue of the department’s failure to comply with Florida’s Government in the Sunshine Law.
The Court ruled that when the Sugarloaf Volunteer Fire Department entered into that lease agreement it was subject to the Sunshine Law. The Court also ruled that because the Volunteer department’s Board of Directors did not approve the lease agreement in compliance with the Sunshine Law that the lease was void.
The County challenged the validity of the lease agreement in order to clear the way for the Sugarloaf Volunteer Fire Department to donate the property to the County so a needed new fire station can be built on that site.
Under the lease agreement voided by Judge Koenig’s ruling, the cell tower company was planning to build a new cell tower on the fire house property located near Mile Marker 17. That cell tower would have prevented the construction of the new fire station on that site.
Due to declining membership in the Sugarloaf Volunteer Fire Department, the County’s Fire Rescue department has supplemented the staffing and operations at the decades-old station. An engineering report has determined that the aging building needs to be replaced.
Judge Koenig also rejected all five counter-claims which the cell tower company had brought against the County.