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RHFD gets 'new' station
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Richmond Hill Mayor Harold Fowler cuts the ribbon on the renovated fire station which will house two firefighters, a rescue truck and an engine truck. - photo by Steve Scholar

Six months ago the roof leaked, paint was peeling and nobody would have wanted to spend the night there. Fast forward six months and a $220,000 renovation to Richmond Hill’s fire station #1 on Ford Avenue has turned a one-time sow’s ear into a silk purse.

With the renovation complete, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Wednesday morning with Richmond Hill Mayor Harold Fowler doing the honors. An earlier proposal had sought to demolish the existing fire station and adjacent support buildings and build a new fire station — at a cost of almost $2 million.     

“I’m very pleased with the way it turned out. I didn’t realize it would look this good. It will look even better when the landscaping is finished. Plus it is about $1.5 million cheaper than building a new fire station. That savings will pay for a lot of sidewalks in the city. The renovations will be paid for with Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds,” Councilman Russ Carpenter said.

“I’m really proud of this station and the job that Fire Chief Ralph Catlett has done. We had a proposal to tear this station down. But we saved the taxpayers a lot of money by renovating these buildings,” the mayor said.

Longtime area residents will recall that the building behind the bays that hold the fire trucks was originally a jail and later the county 911 center. The fire station’s new training room once played host to city council and planning commission meetings.

City manager Chris Lovell said the plan to renovate the structures began to take final form in January 2014.

“The council authorized $247,000 to complete the renovations. We came in well under that figure and that includes furnishings and landscaping. I think the taxpayers got good value for money,” Lovell said.

“We have to finish the landscaping and will probably do some streetscaping, which could include pavers and other improvements,” Lovell said.

Catlett said the renovated facility will initially have two firefighters assigned.

"We will have a rescue truck and engine truck assigned. The firefighters will handle mainly problems on the interstate,” Catlett said.

Like other fulltime city firefighters, they will work 24 hours on, then 48 hours off, Catlett said.

The fire chief also said that as the city continues to grow, so will the requirements for additional fulltime firefighters.

“The mayor and council have been very progressive in their approach to the fire department.

City manager Lovell said the renovated fire station, along with fire station #2 on Timber Trail Road, will meet the city’s needs for the foreseeable future.

“The next fire station will likely be at the Belfast Commerce Center,” he said.

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