New Bibb County fire station could open within a year

Construction has started on a new fire station in northwest Bibb County, and it could open by next spring.

Fire station No. 109, located on New Forsyth Road between Bass Road and Wesleyan Drive, is one of three new stations that will be paid for with proceeds from a special purpose local option sales tax initiative that voters approved in November. It’s the first SPLOST project to have a groundbreaking ceremony.

Workers paused from their site-prep labors, compacting the soil and leveling the ground, for the ceremony, which included Bibb County commissioners and fire officials. Members of the SPLOST advisory board also were on hand.

Macon-Bibb County Fire Chief Marvin Riggins said a dozen new firefighters will be hired about three months before the station is ready to open. A fire truck for the station already has been purchased.

Riggins said the location of the new station -- near The Shoppes at River Crossing -- was chosen based on growing development and firefighters’ monitoring response times and seeing that the times were “not in a desirable range.”

“We know there’s a lot of growth in this area, commercial and residential,” he said.

Riggins said he hopes to soon acquire property for the other two stations. A station is needed in the area of Pine­worth, Columbus and Fulton Mill roads in west Bibb County. Another one is needed near Jeffersonville Road, Sawyer Lake and Donnan Road in east Bibb County.

The west Bibb station could open in 2014 with the east Bibb station opening the following year, he said.

“We’re hoping to continue with the process” of adding the new stations, Riggins said.

The extra penny of sales tax on the dollar will provide $12 million for the three stations.

Besides keeping firefighters’ response times as fast as possible, the stations are needed to keep the fire department’s Insurance Services Office inspection rating low, Riggins said.

Insurance companies use ISO ratings to calculate premium costs. Macon holds ISO’s top rating of 1. Bibb County’s rating is a 3/9.

Riggins said the next ISO inspection will probably come in 2013. It’s not clear whether the fire department’s services to the city and county will be evaluated separately or together, as they historically have been ranked.

Bibb County officials started plans for station No. 109 more than five years ago and bought land on Bass Road, closer to Riverside Drive than the station now under construction. That station was initially estimated to open in July 2008.

Concerns regarding land topography and access to the site later caused officials to look for another site.