County transfers funds for Fire Station 8

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

The Henry County Board of Commissioners took a step last week toward a long-term solution for Fire Station 8.

Commissioner Dee Clemmons requested a transfer of $1.938 million from fund balance to the county’s capital fund so that staff could proceed with the procurement process for engineering and location feasibility studies. The motion at the board’s Dec. 6 regular meeting passed 5-1 with Chairman Tommy Smith voting against, after Smith attempted to convince the board to approve even more funds to ensure the station is built as it should be.

The station on Flippen Road, just north of Hudson Bridge Road on the west side of I-75, is more than 30 years old and was recently closed by county officials after an inspection revealed it was not suitable for use. Work is already underway to construct temporary facilities on the site so that Henry County Fire Department personnel and equipment can continue to serve the area from that location.

Clemmons noted that the station was on the county’s SPLOST list but had been downgraded from Tier 1 to Tier 2 and Smith pointed out that there are no funds currently allocated for it.

“This is not new,” said Clemmons. “For over ten years we’ve known that this station is in a bad state. It’s been overlooked for a very long time. We’ve built several stations and this one has not gotten any attention.”

Among the issues being considered for the permanent state of the station is whether it should be relocated to another site nearby, as traffic conditions at the current location can make it difficult for vehicles to come and go in emergency situations. But Clemmons urged her colleagues to move forward, saying that extra land had been purchased there in past years and money has been spent on that property for a new station.

“Thousands of lives and homes are at risk in that area,” said Commissioner Bruce Holmes. “To kick this down the road so we can move the money somewhere else in asinine.”

Smith stated that any fire station built in that area must be compatible with what has been built in recent years in other locations in the county. With estimates from county staff that a new station would cost $2.5 million or so to build, Smith recommended changing the $1.9 million to an amount “not to exceed $3 million.” He said the proposal before the board was only a “Band-aid” and a “political ploy” rather than a real fix to the problem.

The county is required to keep at least 25 percent of its annual budget in fund balance to make sure the county’s financial reserves are not too low to provide services. Smith said that the county’s fund balance was $9.9 million above that threshold at the time of this discussion. But county budget officials would not recommend a $3 million shift from fund balance at that time.