NEW ELLENTON --- It took about 10 years of planning, but New Ellenton's new fire station -- and first new city building in 40 years -- is finally complete and operational.
"This has been a long time coming," said Jeff Smith, a volunteer firefighter and assistant county coroner.
Construction began on the 6,500-square-foot building last summer, about four weeks after the old station was torn down.
The new building is in the same location as its predecessor, which had been in disrepair for years.
"You could stand in the chief's office and see the sky," Mr. Smith said, adding that in the 1980s the building had been condemned because the electrical wiring needed an upgrade.
Residents in the town worked on the wiring and brought it up to code, allowing the fire department to continue using the building.
Built in 1951, the nearly 5,000-square-foot building once housed the fire department and other city offices. In the 1970s, the city built the current city hall, which until now was the last new city structure in New Ellenton. But it won't be the last.
With financing from a one-cent sales tax, the new fire station is the first of several projects planned for the Atomic City. Others include a new city hall, a civic center and streetscaping.
The volunteer fire department's new digs would be the envy of any paid fire department. The building has separate sleeping quarters and showers for men and women, a kitchen and lounge area, and two offices.
One aspect of the new building the more than 40 volunteer fire fighters appreciate is being able to have all the fire trucks under one roof. In the old building, the trucks wouldn't all fit in the bay. Some of the vehicles had to be stored at substations, including the department's ladder truck, which could barely fit through the bay's 12-foot doors.
The new building has had a positive effect on the department's morale.
"This fire department's always been pretty close. We're a bunch of brothers," said Mr. Smith, who has been with the department since 1977 when the volunteer firefighters used to pay monthly dues. "We've come so far. Everything's improved so much."
Reach Michelle Guffey at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or firstname.lastname@example.org.