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VFD, sheriff, EMS to share new facility

JENNA-LEY HARRISON
Staff Writer

Construction recently started on a new facility designed to serve as a new home for the Howards Creek Volunteer Fire Department and a second substation in western Lincoln County for the Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Medical Services.
According to Howards Creek Fire Chief Dusty Rudisill, the cost of the 14,430-square-foot structure, which is located only a mile west of the department’s current facility on N.C. 27, is more than $1 million. Assistant County Manager Martha Lide said the county intends to make rent payments to the fire department while leasing space to both EMS and the Sheriff’s Office.
She said the Howards Creek Fire Service District tax will be covering the facility’s debt service. Currently, an exact rent estimate has yet to be determined but it should fall somewhere between $27,000 and $31,000 annually, according to the county’s 40-year license agreement with Howards Creek Volunteer Fire Department. The agreement also says the county intends to pay a “proportional share of the construction costs over 25 years” followed by $1 per year for 15 years.
“We will finalize the numbers during the budget process this spring,” Lide said. “Then we will sit down . . . and go over exact square footage, debt service retirements and can estimate utilities.”
Plans to build the structure have been in the works for the last five years, but not until April 2010 did Rudisill make an official presentation to the Board of County Commissioners, Lide said. County officials finally approved the building’s lease in July 2011.
Upon expected completion of the building in December, the land housing the current fire station will return to the heirs of the Gilbert family, who allowed fire officials to build in the area in 1965, Rudisill said.
The chief is particularly looking forward to having a facility large enough to accommodate firefighters’ sleeping necessities. He said, currently, all space at the station is used for apparatus bays.
“Members will be able to stay in the station around the clock so that they will be available in less time to respond to emergencies,” Rudisill said.
Space totaling 2,228-square-feet has been allocated for EMS and the Sheriff’s Office, the agreement noted.
Sheriff David Carpenter plans to house all 20 Adam District deputies in a front corner of the new facility, in an area roughly totaling 1,400-square-feet. Carpenter said the fire department had previously partnered with the Sheriff’s Office several years back, allowing a place for deputies to store equipment during shift changes until the law enforcement agency opened a now-defunct satellite office in the county’s western end.
“Now we have the opportunity to partner again . . . in a brand new facility, allowing us to move from our current overcrowded facility,” he said.
The remaining 800-square-feet will be allocated to EMS officials.
“The co-location of services . . . is without a question a great idea to save money and provide the best service to the community,” Rudisill said.
An actual street number has yet to be assigned to the new fire station.

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