WARNER ROBINS -- City Council put together the final puzzle pieces to build a new Warner Robins fire station at a Monday meeting, while giving little attention to a draft city budget.
The council approved more than $900,000 in expenses to launch construction of the new fire station near Ga. 96 and Cartwright Drive. The city will pay $889,573 -- the biggest expense of the project -- to International City Builders to manage and build the station. Fire Chief Robert Singletary said Monday that his staff had cut the project and kept negotiating, bringing the cost down about $101,000 in just the past two weeks.
Singletary told The Telegraph he hopes construction will begin in the next month, and could be completed by July 2015. The fire station will help the growing south side of town directly, but it also will bolster the citys overall fire protection, which includes six other stations.
It will provide service to approximately 3,000 occupancies. With the (Ga.) 96 widening, once this gets completed, theres no telling what kind of commercial growth were going to have in that area, he said.
Councilman Chuck Shaheen said theres a possibility the new station will help the entire city by lowering fire insurance ratings, which would lower home insurance rates for homeowners across the city.
The fire station is something thats going to affect every citizen in Warner Robins, Shaheen said.
The citys last fire station, on Lake Joy Road, opened in 1996. The Ga. 96 station, like that one, is also planned to host a police precinct.
Mayor Randy Toms said teamwork across departments made the station possible. Toms spent the weekend trying to figure out how to close a big budget gap. The answer was finalized just 10 minutes before Mondays meetings began, he said.
To close a budget gap of nearly $300,000, the city will buy police cars with condemned police department funds, some of which come from police seizures. That freed another $300,000 in sales-tax proceeds earmarked for public safety, Toms told The Telegraph.
City Council members did not discuss Toms proposed $37.2 million budget. The budget calls for a 3-percent adjustment to the pay scale, an increase of about $900,000 for health care spending, and a $200,000 change in workers compensation funds. To balance the budget, the city would draw $521,717 from its financial reserves and take another $600,000 from its natural gas fund.
Three residents spoke at a four-minute-long public hearing on the budget. Alex Talley urged council members to work from the actual budget rather than a summary.
The budget that youre about to approve is not the budget youre about to spend, she said.
A second reading is expected June 16.
Council members also gave a first reading to increases in water and sewer rates. Councilman Mike Davis said the citys rates are in the lower third of rates in the state. The changes are expected to add $3.37 a month to the average residential customers bill and $5 a month to the average business customers bill. Davis said the increases are necessary to ensure the city can pay off a $28 million bond on a water treatment plant.