Originally created 02/06/01

Chief asks to relocate fire stations



Augusta's new fire chief wants to move sites for several South Augusta fire stations proposed in a $150,000 government efficiency study - sites he says are not efficient.

The 1998 efficiency study proposed south Augusta fire stations, which are tentatively scheduled to be built with sales tax money during the next three years, limit engine response time and give coverage to largely rural areas, Fire Chief Bernard Mack told Augusta commissioners.

At a work session on the sales tax last week, Chief Mack asked commissioners to approve changing the location of three proposed fire stations and one existing station in south Richmond County. The problem, he said, is that the stations have been built or are scheduled to be built on or near a county line, limiting the number of directions in which fire engines can travel.

"It didn't make a lot of sense to me," Chief Mack said.

DMG Maximus consultants studied most of the city's governmental departments during its five-month efficiency study. The fire department was one of only a few government agencies identified in the company's 300-page report as needing more manpower.

The study noted that Augusta has too many fire stations in its inner-city and urban areas, causing an overlap in services that could be better utilized in the growing, southern part of the city.

DMG, based on the results of a computer program designed to analyze fire station location, proposed closing several of the city's urban fire stations and moving firemen to newly built stations in south Augusta. The study also proposed adding one new station to the south end of the county, increasing the number to 20.

"As Augusta develops to the south, I think you're going to need to add a station," but not in the next five years, Chief Mack said.

The consultants' computer program didn't appear to consider the areas several of the south Augusta stations would be protecting.

For example, Station 12 - an existing station - is located about a mile from the Hephzibah city limits. Hephzibah has its own fire department, Chief Mack said.

But the efficiency study, instead of relocating the station, recommends adding two more stations north of it.

Chief Mack has proposed combining the two recommended stations into one, centrally located station on Brown Road and closing the existing station in favor of centering a new one on Hephzibah-McBean Road.

"It was probably a valid idea for their time frame," Chief Mack said.

Consultants also recommended relocating a fire station from east Augusta to the intersection of U.S. Highway 1 and Willis Foreman Road. Chief Mack said that location also is inefficient because it backs up to Fort Gordon, which has its own fire service. He recommends moving the station several miles down Willis Foreman Road.

Some commissioners have indicated tentative support for Chief Mack's plan.

"This will help remedy that situation," Commissioner Andy Cheek said after Chief Mack presented his proposals.

Projects

Several fire department projects set to be funded with special purpose local option sales tax money have been revised by Augusta Fire Chief Bernard Mack. Here's the rundown of what commissioners are considering:

Station No. 1: Located near the intersection of Watkins and Third streets. Proposed to be closed and combined with the former coverage area of Sand Bar Ferry Road station (Station No. 19) at a new station location near the intersection of Broad and East Boundary streets in 2003. Revised to be funded two years earlier, in 2001.

Station No. 7: Located on Central Avenue. Proposed to be closed and moved to a newly built station near the intersection of Bennock Mill and Crenshaw roads in 2002. Revised to be built on Brown Road, between Sego and Fairbluff roads in 2002.

Station No. 8: Located on Central Avenue. Proposed to be moved to a new building on Highland Avenue in 2002. Revised to be built at the same location in 2003.

Station No. 12: Located near the intersection of Mike Padgett Highway and Hephzibah-McBean Road. Proposed to be remodeled. Revised to be closed and built as a new station in 2001, several miles west of the current location but still on Hephzibah-McBean Road.

Station No. 15: Located in temporary facilities on Wrightsboro Road. Proposed for a permanent facility to be built nearby in 2001. Revised to be pushed back one year and built at the same location in 2002.

Station No. 19: Located on Sand Bar Ferry Road. Proposed to be funded in 2003 and built near the intersection of U.S. Highway 1 and Willis Foreman Road. Revised to be funded two years earlier, in 2001, and built near the intersection of Willis Foreman and Lace roads for a more central location.

Station No. 20: Does not exist. Proposed to be built near the intersection of Brown and Old Waynesboro roads in 2001. Revised not to be built.

Reach Heidi Coryell at (706) 823-3215.