Catmount Constructors Inc. is officially under contract to build Smyrna’s Fire Station No. 5, and a start date for the project should be announced soon.
“They’ve signed an at-risk agreement,” said Ron Fennel, Ward 7 council member and chair of the public safety committee. “It’s a ‘we will build this structure at this price during this period of time’ and there’s a small caveat in there about a weather-permitting clause. But it’s 160 days. We’re about to get this bad boy underway.”
Fire Station No. 5 will be constructed near the intersection of Cooper Lake Road and East West Connector. Once completed it will serve Smyrna’s southwestern residents. This will reduce response time to an area where residents sometimes have to wait 14 minutes for emergency service, said Smyrna Deputy Fire Chief Roy Acree.
The new fire station lies within Fennel’s ward and will likely serve his and the surrounding neighborhoods. Fennel’s neighborhood, Vinings Estates, is currently served by Smyrna Fire Station No. 4 on South Cobb Drive.
“From the back of my neighborhood, it could take 10 or 11 minutes in some instances if worst-case scenario existed,” Fennel said. “We have a mutual aid agreement with Cobb County and that has been employed a couple of times coming back from Veterans and Pebblebrook to serve the back of my neighborhood. It’s not that our rating was impaired as a region, but as a city to serve all our residents who pay their taxes we want to make sure we can reach everybody in a three to five minute window.”
The site of the new fire station was designated the most ideal location to cut down on response time to the city’s southwest side.
“It’s an Insurance Services Office-rating question,” Fennel said. “And the recommendations for serving an area so that your response time is minimized, you locate as many points in the community so that no matter where you have a need in that community you have a preferred response time. So that’s why the location was selected in the general area.”
It didn’t hurt that the city of Smyrna already owned property within the area recommended by the ISO.
“That location was given to us as a recommendation by the ISO when we had our ISO evaluation a year or so ago,” Acree said. “It fell in line where we had property and where we needed a station.”
The process of building Smyrna’s fifth fire station has been in the works since 2009. That’s when the Smyrna Fire Department applied for a federal stimulus grant to build the structure and a FEMA Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant to staff the station for its three years of operation.
Once the city was approved for the grant Bacon set up a Fire Station No. 5 Committee comprised of city council members and city staff. The city also employed Croy Engineering as a consultant to the project. Acree explained these measures were taken to oversee the fulfillment of the federal government’s requirements as well as LEED requirements.
“In an effort to make sure we have all our bases covered, it was wise of the mayor to form this committee,” he said. “It’s intended to make sure everything is going the way it should go.”
The three council members serving on the committee, Mike McNabb, Jimmy Smith and Pete Wood, no longer serve on Smyrna city council. McNabb lost last December’s runoff election to current Ward 4 Council Member Charles “Corkey” Welch while Smith and Wood didn’t seek additional terms of office.
Wade Lnenicka, Ward 6 council member, explained that the current mayor and council will not seek to fill the vacancies.
“The council talked about it and said you know, rather than try to recreate a new committee, why don’t we go forward and either talk about it in the public safety committee or in a whole meeting,” he said.
Acree agreed that the committee might be unnecessary now that construction of the new fire station is about to begin.
“It’s my opinion that the committee has served its purpose now that we’re ready to break ground,” he said.
Croy Engineering is still serving as a consultant to the project.
Once the station is complete, the $600,000 FEMA SAFER grant will pay for the salaries of the six firefighters for three years. In December Bacon told the Marietta Daily Journal that the city has yet to determine how to pay those salaries after the grant money has been used.
“If we determine we can’t afford it (after that), we have to let those men go,” he told MDJ.
Acree said he can’t predict where the money will come from, but thinks applying for the SAFER grant was the right decision.
“Where future funds come from three years from now is outside the bounds of the deputy chief of even the chief of the fire department,” he said. “We applied for the grants and were given the opportunity to be awarded the grants. We’re excited because we know we can meet the demand for service in an area where we were unable to meet in acceptable time. The citizens of Smyrna pay for and deserve the best service around. And it’s our singular intent to provide just that.”
And that’s something Fennel and his constituents can cheer about.
“We’re excited that all of Ward 7 is going to have a fire station and reduce our response times and keep our insurance rates low as property owners and maximize Smyrna’s ability to respond to any call as necessary in all parts of the city,” he said.