New east Bibb firehouse is long time coming, residents say

lfabian@macon.comNovember 15, 2013 

New east Bibb firehouse is long time coming, residents say

Sandye Powell has been waiting 34 years for better fire protection in east Bibb County.

Friday morning, she watched as shovels of dirt went flying during the groundbreaking for a new fire station on Donnan Road near Jeffersonville Road.

“It means a lot to me and the residents of Thornton Heights subdivision. We’ve had three total losses up there,” said Powell, who lives less than two miles from the site. “This is a big boost to us.”

Her neighborhood is going from Class 9 fire protection to Class 1, she said.

In recent years, the addition of fire hydrants lowered her insurance premiums, and she’s looking for greater savings once station No. 111 is open in early 2015.

“We’ve come a long, long way,” she said. “There was a time we had volunteers.”

Macon-Bibb County Fire Chief Marvin Riggins has been looking forward to building a new station in the area for the past three years. It was part of his 2010 strategic plan presented to the Bibb County Commission and identified as a need in the 2012 sales tax initiative.

“This is a great day because this will improve the health, welfare and safety of an entire community,” Riggins said. “This is an exciting morning to us all.”

Commission Chairman Sam Hart said the new fire station has been a priority for east Bibb County, where fire insurance ratings lagged behind other parts of the county in recent decades.

The closest station is more than five miles away on the outskirts of the industrial sector near Interstate 16. The backup station for Powell and her neighbors is near downtown Macon.

“This is an area that needed a fire station in hopes that it will again spur development in this particular area,” Hart said.

As a resident of the district, outgoing Commissioner Lonzy Edwards thanked his commission colleagues for recognizing the disparities of services for the people living near the borders of Twiggs and Jones counties.

“We look forward to the fine service we know we’re going to get from the men and women who will serve here under the direction of our wonderful chief,” Edwards said.

Edwards’ successor, Macon City Councilwoman Elaine Lucas, has longed for more attention to be paid to east Macon.

She sees the project as a good sign of better things to come for her new constituents in the county.

“It’s very exciting,” Lucas said. “We’re just going to be working as hard as we can with our fellow commissioners to make sure we have more of the same.”

With the amount of nearby land, Lucas sees the opportunity for apartments, townhouses or even a retirement village.

With the project still in the bidding phase, Riggins estimated that it will take more than a year for the station to open.

Its proximity to Twiggs and Jones counties could help with mutual aid to those rural communities, but Riggins’ focus is on the underserved residents nearby.

“We’re trying to enhance our response times and the quality of fire protection and emergency services in this side of Bibb County,” he said. “So the citizens here should experience a greater service level of fire and emergency protection.”

Future real estate development could be years away, but Lucas said the community will feel the benefits as soon as the station opens.

“I think people can feel safer, and it just adds to the quality of life all around.”

To contact Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.

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