DECATUR — City officials said they'll take into account residents' concerns as they consider a plan to move the city's northernmost fire station to a new building on Decatur's northwest side.
The corner of West Mound Road and Greenridge Drive would be the new home of Station 5, now located at 225 E. Christine Drive, just north of Brettwood Village. Fire Chief Jeff Abbott said building a new fire station there would allow firefighters to arrive more quickly at emergencies on the north side of the city.
"We need a better way to get across to Oakland Avenue and (east) toward (Interstate 72) where we're responsible to cover too, and this accomplishes that goal," Abbott told the Herald & Review.
But the most vocal of the 30 residents who showed up to a public meeting at Mound Chapel Church of God on Wednesday expressed worries about blaring sirens, decreased access to street parking, the potential for car accidents, and an effect on adjacent property values. Several wanted to know why the location on a residential street was necessary.
"There will be people who may be in favor who aren't (at the meeting) but nobody will walk away from here saying that the entirety of this group left and were excited about (the proposal)," Deputy Manager Billy Tyus said.
Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe and Decatur City Council members Pat McDaniel and Lisa Gregory attended the meeting, held at Mound Chapel Church, and assured residents that they would take their thoughts into consideration when making the decision, which the council ultimately must approve.
The plan comes as part of a comprehensive, multimillion-dollar effort meant to address years of deferred maintenance in the city's seven fire stations, which were built between 1927 and 1994. Station 5 is one of three stations that consultants Dewberry Architects Inc., recommended replacing, rather than renovating, in a report completed last year.
Abbott said the desire to bring a fire station farther north in Decatur has existed since the 1990s, when new residential developments were built there and new land was annexed into the city, increasing the service boundaries for the city's fire department.
He and Tyus told residents at the meeting that no other locations had worked out so far that would meet the fire department's specifications and goals, but declined to name specific sites they had investigated.
Marie Wayne said she and her family approached the city earlier this year about her late grandmother's home on 330 W. Mound Rd.
Wayne's late grandfather, Jack Moore, built the home in 1947, "when Mound Road was a gravel road," she said. Wayne said her late grandmother Betty Moore continued to live there until she died in December.
City Manager Tim Gleason said the city had an option to buy the land for close to $30,000, though negotiations are still ongoing.
"I'm concerned that it would not sell very well, or eventually go to another business, and make property values go down. I don't see it as a very desirable property for a family to move into because of the location," Wayne said.
The house sits almost directly across the northern entrance into Target.
Abbott said the planned cost to build the new Station 5 would be $2 million, part of an $8.5 million plan to renovate or replace the seven fire stations in the city.
Gleason said the plan to cover the $8.5 million is already accounted for in the city's current spending levels, taking $400,000 to pay debt service annually over 20 years.
Abbott said the police, fire, and city staff are taking the need for facility updates as an opportunity to improve fire response times to newly developed areas of the city to the north and southeast near the Decatur Airport.
Gleason said several steps after the public meeting will need to take place before final plans are made. The city will need to purchase the land. The city council must vote to rezone the property and approve financing and design plans for the new station.
The other fire stations up for possible moves are Fire Station 7 at the Decatur Airport, and Station 3 by Fairview Park. Abbott said Station 3 has experienced difficulty with traffic at U.S. 36 and Fairview Drive, and the building itself is in need of major updates.