The first of two fire stations that will plug a hole in coverage and lower residents’ insurance costs moved closer to reality Tuesday.
Elected officials, Hall County staff and residents gathered to ceremonially break ground at the future Hall County Fire Station 3 at Will Wallace Road and Ledan Extension.
The station relocation from a 1970s era building on Short Road — along with the new Station 16 breaking ground at its Shirley and Mount Vernon roads location on Oct. 2 — is a relief for homeowners in the area who should accordingly see their insurance rates drop due to the enhanced coverage.
“All I can say is, ‘It’s about time,’” Hall County Commissioner Billy Powell said. “As you well know, insurance companies have done surveys and they’re jacking rates up, so we’re excited we’re getting this underway.”
After the ceremony, Powell said the process was exhaustive, given the need to find two suitable locations timed for construction simultaneously.
“I’m glad to see it finally happen; I don’t think people realize how difficult it was finding two sites to build at the same time,” he said. Not doing so would have simply “moved the gap,” of fire coverage, he said.
“Those residents would have lost coverage, and we would gain nothing by building a fire station in terms of coverage,” Powell added.
Residents in North Hall fell in a fire coverage gap when Station 2 relocated to Clermont more than four years ago, and a stagnant economy stalled plans for the two new stations to plug that hole, Powell said.
The Station 3 plans also get firefighters an upgraded building, and several of the station’s firefighters meandered from their Short Road location for the ceremony, examining their future home away from home with eager eyes.
“Well, here we are, since 1970 to now, and we’re still in that temporary fire station and those guys are excited to get out of it,” Hall County Fire Chief David Kimbrell said. “We have to be very careful about the equipment we put in (the current building). The building is so small, some of the equipment will not fit in there, so we have to jockey things around.”
Kimbrell said if the station had been operating, it would have responded to a major call on Sept. 7.
“It never fails that when we plant a location in the ground, it seems that things begin to happen, or we begin to notice things in that area. ... A 15,000-square-foot cottage on the lake burned the other day — this station would respond to that,” he said of the fire, the circumstances of which remain “suspicious.”
Ken Rearden, Public Works director for Hall, said the stations have a total $2.6 million price tag and are expected to be operational by April 2014 — weather permitting, builders noted.