HOMER — Banks County is beginning plans to construct a new fire/emergency medical services station on two acres donated by a well-known organization based in the county.
Following closed session Tuesday night, the Banks County Commission voted unanimously to proceed with planning for a new fire/EMS station on property at Grace Point, a retreat and community center located between Baldwin and Hollingsworth on Old Highway 441.
The money to construct that station will come from the county’s 1-cent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.
“In the last SPLOST vote, it was approved to remodel two stations or rebuild two stations, one of them being the Hollingsworth station,” said Banks County Fire/EMS Chief Steve Nichols. “We’re kind of landlocked there and there’s very little we could do as far as building a bigger station or something that would accommodate us there.”
County leaders have been looking for quite some time to find property suitable to house a larger station in the Hollingsworth area.
“We’ve had a very lucrative offer from Grace Point, which is three miles north of where we are and still on Old 441, for a piece of two-acre land there that they’ve offered to donate to the county,” Nichols said. “It’s a positive move for us. It puts a station in a great location that helps us improve our response times. We’re going to be less than a half a mile off [U.S.] 441 itself, so our response times to the north end of the county will improve drastically.”
Nichols said once built the station initially will house the ambulance and crew currently stationed in Hollingsworth.
“We have planned for years now about adding two new fire stations in our county,” said Commission Chairman Jimmy Hooper. “We put money in the 2017 SPLOST. But we have had brought forth an opportunity to get some land in the Hollingsworth/Baldwin area for a new what probably will start off as an EMS station, but eventually might lead into something else.”
Nichols and Hooper agreed the station will benefit an area of the county that for years has needed better response times. Other commissioners said they would like to see a public safety building on the site.
“It’s a high coverage area,” Hooper said. “A lot of people live that way. Right now we’re under a contract with Baldwin, which is an outstanding contract, that they provide services in that area. We’re not going away from that. Were just adding to.”
That means the use of the current station would change, but not cease.
“The plans would be not to do away completely with the fire station at Hollingsworth, but that would become a volunteer station,” Hooper said. “In principle, that’s going to make it safer and better for the people in Banks County.”
Nichols said while only an ambulance will be staffed initially when the new Grace Point station is constructed, “we do hope to build a station that will accommodate fire and EMS, so we’ll have both there – along with the assistance that we get from Baldwin. We hope to improve the coverage in the north end dramatically.”
In addition to contracting with Baldwin Fire Department to handle much of the north end of the county, Banks County also contracts with Tates Creek Fire Department for $3,000 per year to help provide coverage along the east end of Ga. 105. That contract with Tates Creek was renewed at Tuesday night’s meeting.
No timetable for construction has been given yet since county officials just accepted the Grace Point property.