County getting ready for new fire stations

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

The addition of three county fire stations provided for by the latest SPLOST, along with the replacement of an existing station, is moving forward.

The Henry County Board of Commissioners voted at its Feb. 3 meeting to approve architectural design contracts totaling nearly $400,000 for the four stations. The low bids for all of this work were submitted by The Howell Group of Marietta (no Henry County firms submitted bids).

First on the drawing board is Fire Station #2, which now sits at 35 Frances Ward Drive in Locust Grove, just behind the City Hall complex. The new station will be within 500 feet of the existing one on the same piece of property, according to SPLOST capital projects director Ron Burckhalter.

A design contract for $99,800 was approved and the design process is estimated to take about six months. Aside from the fact that it is a replacement station, the other unique aspect of this project is that it will be integrated into a master plan that includes some other municipal facilities in downtown Locust Grove.

Construction of this facility is expected to move forward immediately after the design phase is completed and is estimated to take 8-12 months, which means the station could be operational sometime in the summer of 2016.

Design cost for the three new stations elsewhere in the county was set at $298,000. The design process for those is underway as well, Burckhalter said.

At the BOC meeting when asked about any suggested prioritization of the three as far as soliciting construction bids, Burckhalter responded that Henry County Fire Department officials have indicated the greatest need for coverage is in the Luella area.

A couple of potential sites are being considered there. One is on Henry County Board of Education property at the Luella school complex just off Hampton-Locust Grove Road, while another is on Walker Road near the three schools. Crews are surveying both sites to determine which would be best for the facility that needs to be built, Burckhalter said.

Sites for the other two stations have been established. One will be on Mt. Carmel Park property and the other will be on the same property as the new park under development in the Kelleytown area.

The board has yet to decide if the other three stations will be constructed simultaneously. While SPLOST funds are there for the construction, county officials must also consider staffing costs when deciding exactly when to open the new stations, as Burckhalter pointed out.

Commissioner Brian Preston said at the meeting that the way this process has unfolded is a positive move in addressing a key need in the community.

“This SPLOST was unique in that we made public safety a countywide initiative instead of letting each district just fend for itself. That’s why I think it’s exciting that we have fire stations going up across the county,” said Preston.

“We heard the outcry from our citizens about how homeowners insurance has skyrocketed because of ISO ratings. Insurance companies make those ratings because they see a need and concern, and we want to make protecting our citizens paramount.”