“This is a great day for Spalding County even though it’s rainy,” said Spalding County Manager William Wilson. “I agree with (Spalding County Fire Chief) Chipper Gardner - these are tears of joy. This is part of our long-range plan. Last year, we acquired the equipment; this year, we’ll build it; and in 2010, we’ll staff it.”
The 9,400-square-foot facility, with a construction cost of $1,375,000, will be divided into three separate spaces - administrative and lodging areas and an apparatus bay.
Gardner said area residents will be better served by having a fire station and emergency personnel close at hand.
“The biggest benefit to the community is going to be a faster response time to fires and emergencies in that part of the county, “ Gardner said. “That area is currently farther away from a fire station than any other part of the county. We probably have about a 10-minute response time in that area and we really need that response time to be five or six minutes.”
Gwen Murphy is one such resident and was on hand Friday morning to express her thanks to Spalding County officials.
“I want to thank everyone that’s here today. It’s a grand day for us. This is a wonderful day for our community,” Murphy said.
According to Wilson, Murphy has been dedicated to procuring a fire station in this area for many years.
“Miss Gwen has come to see me at least twice a year for twenty years about her fire station,” he said. “She’s great - she’s a community leader.”
Both Wilson and Gardner also pointed out that the county is taking every step possible to prevent the construction project from becoming a burden to taxpayers.
Wilson said, “We’re fortunate to have architects here in our community to design this great station, and our contractor’s office is less than five miles from here so, he’s going to keep a close eye on things and make sure everything is built to specifications and to the approval of the county.”
“We will be hiring 12 new personnel. The county is planning to hire them in July, 2009. That was a budgetary consideration, too, because the fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30,” Gardner said. “We’ve also applied to a grant to try and fund the personnel through federal funds,” Gardner said. “We’re looking everywhere we can to keep the new station from being a big cost to the taxpayers.”
Spalding County Commissioner Eddie Freeman, who represents the area to be served by the new fire station, said, “I was well-satisfied to see the groundbreaking take place. I’ve been working on it since the election in 2004. It’s something I wanted to see come to fruition, as did the residents of the community. It will certainly be used for many years to come,” Freeman said.
The L.B. Norton is expected to be completed next summer.