Three fire-truck-sized garage doors lifted in unison Friday morning, signifying that Macon-Bibb County’s newest fire station is now open and firefighters are ready for emergencies.
Construction of the station, located on New Forsyth Road just south of Bass Road, began a little more than a year ago.
It’s Macon-Bibb County’s 20th station.
“We’ve looked forward to this for a long time,” Fire Chief Marvin Riggins said during a ceremony that drew about 100 city and county officials, community leaders and firefighters with their families.
Riggins has said firefighters chose to build near The Shoppes at River Crossing based on growing development in the area and the realization that response times were slipping.
“We know this is going to enhance the public safety protection in this area,” he said during Friday’s gathering.
County Commission Chairman Sam Hart said the station, funded by proceeds from a sales tax initiative that voters approved in November 2011, is an example of officials giving voters what they want.
“When you gave us the 1 penny sales tax, you asked us to do some things related to safety,” he said. “This is our response to what you asked us to do.”
Mayor Robert Reichert said the new station is important as part of how insurance ratings will be set for the upcoming consolidated government.
In the past, the Insurance Services Office has evaluated Macon and Bibb County separately. In the future, just one rating will be issued.
“Our class 1 rating is in jeopardy,” he told the crowd.
Ratings are determined after an inspection of a fire department’s training and equipment, but they also are based on the location of the fire stations, water lines and fire hydrants.
Macon holds ISO’s top rating of 1, while Bibb County’s rating is a 3/9.
In order to maintain a class 1 rating, Macon and Bibb County must commit to building new stations, hiring more firefighters and buying more equipment, Reichert said.
Riggins said it’s unclear when evaluators from ISO will return to town, but he hopes they will wait until the New Forsyth Road station has been operating for a while.
The station is staffed by five firefighters per shift who operate a fire truck and a rescue truck. There’s room at the station for growth to include a ladder truck and as many as a dozen firefighters.
Officials broke ground on a second new station, located on Heath Road, in late June. Plans also are underway for a third station near Jeffersonville Road, Sawyer Lake and Donnan Road in east Bibb County. Sales tax proceeds are paying for them too.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.