As one fire department in Sampson County works toward finalizing a purchase of property as the site of a bigger station, another on the other end of the county is nearing completion on a large expansion project of its own.
The Garland Board of Commissioners were recently briefed that the purchase of property by the Garland Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department Inc. was close to being completed following the adoption of a resolution in September to sell a tract of land along West Second Street (N.C. 411) in the town’s industrial park.
“I’ve spoken with the purchaser’s attorneys,” said town attorney Joel Starling. “They are ready to close. We just need to schedule a time with them to do that.”
He noted a couple minor issues with the maps, dated Sept. 6, that had since been rectified.
He said there is a water line that runs along Garland Free Will Baptist Church and the purchased property that had been accounted for, however there was an additional right of way easement for the hydrants, not shown on those initial maps, that needed to be added by the surveyor.
“We had to have that fixed,” said Starling. “We have the one that has been recorded. We may or may not need to re-record that.”
The survey was initially signed by Mayor Pro Tem Ralph Smith, but Starling said the town should consider having Mayor Winifred Murphy sign the document, something that was not mandatory.
Garland fire chief Thomas Norris pushed for the town’s consideration of a site for a new fire station, making proposals in recent years that were inevitably delayed in favor of further negotiations — before September’s breakthrough, when the board adopted a resolution to sell the property to the department for $20,000.
The resolution stated that the mayor would authorize the execution of all necessary documents to complete the transaction and transfer of property, and Starling said Murphy’s schedule would be worked around to complete the needed paperwork.
Norris has said a station with four bigger bays would be necessary, because the department — as well as the fire trucks themselves — are growing in size. Upon the department’s incorporation, the town offered a piece of its property on West Second Street as the site for a new fire station. Fire officials did not like the way the land was divided up, and wanted a different section toward the middle of the town property.
Town officials, not wanting a new site for the fire station to come at the expense of the entire piece of industrial park property, held off on the decision in favor of further discussion. The 1.7-acre plot on West Second Street sold to the department was ultimately positioned in a way so that it is not in the center of the park property, and there is still a large piece available for further development, town officials said.
“My understanding is that the purchaser’s attorney has the money in his trust account and they’re ready to rock ‘n’ roll,” said Starling. “We’re still working within the schedule of time.”
NG station expansion
In Newton Grove, fire chief Joey Eason said an approximately $400,000 expansion project at Newton Grove Fire & Rescue Inc. should be completed within the next two months.
Ground was broken in September for an approximately 3,000 square foot addition that will be used for a new bay area at the station, located at 313 Weeksdale St. The project included renovations to the office and meeting area as well as 2,000 square feet for future expansion. Eason said the project is creating space for the department, whose personnel and equipment have felt the walls closing in on them in recent years.
“It’s well over halfway done,” Eason said Thursday, noting a timeline on completion is tough to gauge. “It’s hard to tell. We’ve got a big contractor and some subcontractors coming in.”
Should one subcontractor get behind it delays another, producing a domino effect, but Eason said he is satisfied with how it is all coming together. The expansion includes a firefighter fitness area and larger bays for trucks and equipment.
“The new bay addition is all but complete,” said Eason. “It’s framed up and ready to put up sheet rock. We just need to put up the sheet rock and paint it and put in flooring and carpet. All of the plumbing is in, the appliances just need to be hooked up, and the HVAC should be done in the next day or two.”
Equipment to be housed will include a newly purchased third fire engine that town officials hope will all combine to improve Newton Grove’s fire rating and set a solid foundation for the future.
The department was successful in its bid to lower its rating back in October 2008, the last time it was graded, when the rating went from 9 to 7. That has translated into insurance savings of around $200 annually for homeowners, and Eason is hoping that with the expansion, coupled with the engine purchase, the rating will come down again, possibly to a 6.
The next rating inspection could happen as early as this year, or possibly 2014.
The $400,000 upgrades and purchase of equipment have acted to meet the demands of the present — fire calls have increased by 50 percent over the last five or six years and are expected to keep rising —while paving the way for the future.
“With the kind of room we’re adding on,” he noted, “this fire department should never have to be built on again. It truly benefits the community. We’ve saved a lot of money the way we’re doing it, so for us there’s no real deadline. It’ll be good for everybody.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.