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Monday April 22nd, 2019 12:21PM

Demorest continues to explore new fire station options

By Rob Moore Reporter
  Contact Editor

DEMOREST — It was a familiar theme at Tuesday night’s Demorest City Council work session as city leaders continued to discuss how to proceed with replacement of the city’s faltering firehouse.

The current block firehouse on Ivy Street is some 20 years old and initially was built to house Demorest’s fire and police departments, with a courtroom/meeting room located downstairs. Since that time, the police department has moved to a renovated facility on Georgia Street, and the fire department has expanded to encompass the entire upstairs.

That expansion came with the conversion to a full-time fire department, manned and responding to calls 24 hours a day. Unfortunately, the building continues to settle, crack and have other issues that make it less than optimal for the city’s needs.

In recent months, a structural engineer has told city officials the department’s ladder truck can’t be stored inside the bays due to the weight and increased shifting of the concrete floors.

That has left city leaders looking at ways to store that valuable asset in a heated space during the cold months.

Tuesday night, city officials discussed several options, including:

·         Adding one to three bays onto the end of the existing station, assuming the ground passes core testing;

·         Building an independent structure adjacent to the end of the existing station; and

·         Constructing a new complex behind the existing building that would serve the city and its residents for the next 35 to 50 years.

It was pointed out the current building has other issues besides settling and instability, and that it might be less expensive to look at options that do not include renovation of that failing structure.

“We’ve got a lot of different options available to us,” Mayor Rick Austin told AccessWDUN. “One of the difficulties in discussing these options is we don’t have finite financial information in front of us. We talked about a minimum of three options that may be available to us or are available to us.”

City Manager Kristi S. Williams will examine funding options that may be available to the city and report back to the city council at next week’s meeting.

“What we’ve tasked staff to do is to look at what financing rates might be for $50,000 or $100,000 or $150,000 or even more, and then also to have staff take a look at what steel buildings might run us,” Austin said. “We’re going to examine prefabricated buildings that are made out of steel and have real concrete underneath them, so I think we’ve got a lot of options to look at.”

Austin said he hopes city leaders can proceed with making decisions soon.

“We need to get some finite figures in front of us for next week, and worst-case scenario is that ladder truck ends up spending the winter months housed in our water department so it’s not harmed and we still are able to respond,” Austin said. “The ability for us to meet the citizens’ needs with our fire and EMS facility here is not going to be damaged in any way, shape, form or fashion. We’re going to continue to give excellent service, but at the same time we’ve still got to deal with the issue of this building, so we still have some more conversations to have.”

Demorest Fire Department currently utilizes a fire engine, ladder truck and small rescue truck that mostly handles medical first response/rescue calls.

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