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New city fire station taking shape

Inside the gutted Boling-Hoskins Motors building on North First Street, a fire station is beginning to take shape.

It’s not ready for a shiny red fire engine to swing into the still non-existent bay that will be built on the north side of the building, but it won’t be long, said Fire Chief Tony Weeks. He expects the project to be completed by the end of the year.

“I believe when they get through with it, it’s going to look really nice,” Weeks said.

Paul Jackson & Son of Brookhaven is handling the construction on the project. The architect is Waycaster & Associates of Natchez.

The project is mainly funded through $625,000 earmarked in the 2016 session by the Mississippi Legislature “to authorize the issuance of state general obligation bonds to assist the city of Brookhaven in paying the cost of construction, furnishing and equipping a fire station.”

It took several years to see construction start, but it’s finally happening.

Weeks, Mayor Joe Cox and the former administration had pitched the city’s need to replace Fire Station 2 to different sources since 2014. The current station on Willard Street — a metal building constructed in the 1970s — has suffered a series of maintenance issues over the years. When the project was first proposed, Weeks recommended the new station be built larger than the existing facility. He said city fire trucks are barely able to fit into the current structure’s bays.

Sen. Sally Doty and Reps. Becky Currie and Vince Mangold, all Republican lawmakers from Brookhaven, voted in favor of a multi-million-dollar bond bill in April 2016, $625,000 of which was designated for a fire station. The money has remained in the city’s general fund, drawing interest at a standard rate.

In September, aldermen voted 4-1 to purchase property at 222 North First St. for the new fire station at a cost of $92,500, $1,500 below the appraised value. Ward 3 Alderwoman Mary Wilson and Ward 6 Alderwoman Shelley Harrigill were absent from that meeting and Ward 2 Alderman Shannon Moore voted against the purchase.

The current station on Willard Street sits on the edge of Ward 1, directly adjacent to Ward 2, and serves the eastern portion of the city. Although the new station will be in Moore’s ward, he wanted to see it located farther east, especially for residents in the annexed areas, he said in September.

“I do not agree with spending taxpayers’ money for an old building when the city could have purchased land and built a fire station from the ground up,” he said in February. “It is important that the city of Brookhaven be good stewards of taxpayers’ money.”

The new station is being built in an existing structure on the North First Street site. The architect has designed plans that will showcase the history of the building, which housed Boling-Hoskins Motors in the ‘60s. It has also been home to a tractor supply store.

Exposed wood beams and brick will be kept to bring out the old elements of the building and preserve it, Cox said. The mayor has said maintaining the building’s history is important.

“We could have gone out and built a concrete block building with a metal roof and metal sides, but we chose to go this route,” he said in February.

The station will be larger than the current firehouse with a drive-through bay built on the side so trucks can enter on North First Street and exit from behind the building. There will be additional parking areas inside the building for smaller trucks.

The plans include a kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms, conference room, office, day room, workout area and laundry room as well as a covered area for grilling outside. The bays will be made of 8-inch concrete slabs with a drain for washing the trucks and a carbon monoxide detector, just one of the safety requirements that are included in the plans.

Three stations provide fire service for the city — Station 2 on Willard Street, Station 3 on Industrial Park Road and Central Fire Station on Brookhaven Street.

Weeks would eventually like to see a fourth station built.

“I don’t know how far into the future that will be,” he said.