Move planned for fire department’s Station No. 3

Published 12:10 am Sunday, March 12, 2017

By Josh Bergeron

SALISBURY — Salisbury firefighter Matt Lowman says he’s willing to work in Station No. 3 with an umbrella over his head as rain falls through the ceiling.

The roof doesn’t leak. Although, there are structural problems with the building. Instead, Lowman and others assigned to Station No. 3 say there’s a certain charm about the building — built in 1957 — and the district it covers.

It’s a small station compared to the Salisbury Fire Department’s other facilities. Neighborhoods and a number of businesses also surround the station. Lowman and other firefighters at Station No. 3 agreed that it has a close tie to the surrounding community.

The station’s district also includes a wide swath of Salisbury. Some landmarks within Station No. 3’s district include: Catawba College, Livingstone College, Novant Health Rowan Medical Center and the W.G. “Bill” Hefner VA Medical Center. The Salisbury Country Club sits on one end. Salisbury’s West End neighborhood sits on the other.

“I’d sit in here with an umbrella over my head in here watching TV if I had to,” Lowman said. “We lovingly call it paradise up here.”

“OK, let’s not call it paradise,” said Fire Chief Bob Parnell, who sat nearby.

For a couple reasons, the Salisbury Fire Department and city staff are making plans to move Station 3 a few blocks north — onto Mahaley Avenue.

By moving the station from West Innes St. to Mahaley Avenue, Parnell said the Salisbury Fire Department will be able to cover a larger area. Currently, the area covered by Station No. 3 overlaps with other stations.

Because of the building’s layout, Station No. 3 also doesn’t have female restrooms. As a result, Parnell said the Salisbury Fire Department doesn’t assign its female firefighters to Station No. 3.

The building’s structural problems may be the most visible issue. Cracks mark the walls of Station No. 3. There’s a noticeable gap between a concrete slab on the side of the building and the brick wall to which it was once attached. The bathroom floor isn’t quite straight. After the foundation settled to the point where the bathroom door wouldn’t close, firefighters also needed to trim the edges of the door.

“It is sinking in,” Parnell said. “It was built on a soft spot. So, the interior walls are sinking and cracking. It’s really the eighth wonder of the world that it’s still standing.”

Because of the various issues, city staff plan to acquire land adjacent to a dentist office on Mahaley Avenue for a new Station No. 3. Parnell said the new station would be notably larger than the current building, which sits on a half-acre lot.

City Manager Lane Bailey said the city aims to acquire about 1.75 acres of land located near a four-way intersection that includes Mahaley Avenue, West Innes Street and Statesville Boulevard. Currently, three houses sit on the land Bailey said the city hopes to buy.

Because it’s early in the process, there’s no cost determined for construction of Station No. 3. It’s also unclear when construction might start.

Bailey estimated the total cost of the land needed for the station to be $387,455. The Salisbury City Council last week gave Bailey approval to begin negotiating for the first parcel of land and put down $5,000 as “option money.” The total value of the first parcel of land is $82,398, Bailey said.

Next up, Bailey said local architect Bill Burgin would design the new station. An environmental study is needed. The Salisbury City Council will also need to approve a conditional use permit for the new fire station site.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.