South Salisbury Fire Department breaks ground on $1.3 million expansion

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 27, 2015

SALISBURY — Bolstered by a sizable monetary pledge from the Hubert and Blanche Ritchie Foundation, South Salisbury Fire Department embarked Sunday on a $1.3 million expansion of its Old Concord Road station.

The foundation will contribute $300,000 toward the project, which will enlarge the 1976 fire station from 4,316 square feet to 11,454 square feet. The South Salisbury Board of Directors has approved a design-build contract of $1,342,800 with D.R. Reynolds Co. of Star.

Grading on the site will begin today and last for about two weeks. Construction will start then, and should be completed in the fall, Assistant Chief Jason Burnett said.

Burnett headed the nine-member building committee which formed in October 2013 and started planning the expansion.

Fire Chief Cory Orbison said one of the goals when the planning started was to provide the facility the department needed without raising the fire district’s property tax.

This project accomplishes that goal, thanks in large part to a low-interest loan and the contribution from the Ritchie Foundation, whose board was represented at Sunday afternoon’s groundbreaking by trustees Barbara Brown and Don Menius. Trustee Tim Ervin also has been instrumental in the gift.

The late Hubert Ritchie served as a board member for the South Salisbury department and was one of its longtime advocates.

“We are extremely humbled to be considered for this funding and greatly appreciate this monetary support for our project,” Burnett said.

The foundation’s funding will be allocated over four years at $75,000 a year. It will essentially make the first four payments on the 25-year loan the department has taken out on the expansion.

Burnett said the $1,350,000 loan will have yearly payments of $73,188.71. The interest rate on the loan is 2.49 percent.

Beyond the dramatic increase in square footage, the project also will add 35 parking spaces and enlarge the site so there can be a wrap-around driveway allowing for drive-through bays.

It will enlarge the existing three-bay building by two larger bays and allow the department to have a total of seven to eight pieces of apparatus or vehicles under roof.

Here are other components of the expansion:

• Three individual sleeping rooms.

• A conference room.

• A day room

• A decontamination room.

• An exercise/wellness area.

• A larger kitchen.

• Three offices.

• Separate showers.

• Additional storage areas.

• A larger training/multi-purpose room.

Orbison and Burnett said the service demands on the department are increasing, Last year, Orbison said, the department responded to 525 calls, and calls are on a pace this year to be more than 600.

As with many other rural departments, South Salisbury is looking seriously at staffing volunteers or paid employees overnight. Orbison said South Salisbury currently has two part-time firefighters who cover the station between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Burnett said the department also is exploring the possibility of creating a live-in program using students who are enrolled in Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s fire protection technology degree program.

He said the department offered that same kind of program from 1966 to 1979.

Ironically, the current South Salisbury building does not meet building and fire codes to have overnight sleeping and living quarters, because it lacks an automatic fire suppression and fire alarm system.

The department also needed a bigger building for future fleet considerations. It intends on keeping a 1996 engine, which is the next apparatus scheduled for replacement. Combined with a new engine, the 1996 model could help lower homeowner and business insurance rates in the district.

At present, the department also has a 1994 brush vehicle, a 1999 ladder truck, a 2002 tanker and 2013 utility vehicle.

A good-sized crowd attended Sunday’s groundbreaking. The expansion will occur on the existing building’s north side, where the board purchased 3.8 acres of vacant property in January 2013.

Burnett said the building committee toured several local fire stations and learned from others that a design-build process, in which one company would provide both the design and construction, could lead to savings.

It also determined that renovating and expanding the existing station rather than building a whole new facility from scratch would save about $112,000.

“We determined it was not feasible to relocate to another location due to possible increased response times, as well as unnecessary increased costs to our overall project,” Burnett said.

The South Salisbury Fire Department was chartered in February 1951, and the present station is actually the department’s third location. South Salisbury started out at Old Concord Road and Gold Hill Drive, in the area where the Interstate 85 bridge crosses overhead. The second location was a joint venture with a gas station across from the General Electric plant on Old Concord Road.

The city’s growth kept pushing the station farther out.

Burnett said it was interesting that the current fire station cost $76,850 to build in 1976. The only renovation until now came in 1993 when the training room was enlarged and a small office was added.

Burnett said the 40-year-old station is showing its age and some “wear and tear.”

Many local subcontractors will be involved in the expansion.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.