Politics & Government

Houston approves site for new fire station

PERRY -- Houston County commissioners approved an agreement Tuesday that will lead to the first expansion of county fire services in more than 30 years.

The board accepted a deal with Perdue Foods, a subsidiary of Perdue Farms, in which the company will donate 4.6 acres near its plant south of Bonaire for a new fire station. Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker said it’s the first time since the early 1980s that the county has built a fire station in a new location.

Construction should be “well underway” by the end of the year, he said, and the station should be in operation by early 2016 or sooner. Stalnaker said the county is considering manning it full time, which he said would be a first at a fire station in the county. The county operates a mostly volunteer fire department. Stations usually have personnel only during regular work-week hours when volunteers are working and can’t easily get to the station to get the truck.

Homeowners within a five-mile radius of the new station are expected to see a significant reduction in insurance costs. County Fire Chief Jimmy Williams said the Insurance Services Office rating, which companies use to set rates, is expected to drop from 10 to 6 (generally, the lower the rating, the less expensive the insurance) for homeowners within the five-mile radius.

Stalnaker said the county began talking about building a fire station in the area after a fire at Perdue Farms last year. Perdue and nearby Frito Lay are the county’s two largest employers outside of Robins Air Force Base, Stalnaker said, and better fire protection is needed in that area.

“We cannot afford as a community to let anything happen to any of those industries there, as far as a fire that gets totally out of control,” Stalnaker said.

The property is located near the intersection of Saddle Creek Road and the Ga. 247 spur adjacent to the Perdue plant. The county agreed to name the new fire station after Perdue Farms.

“We are very pleased that we can take a piece of land that we are not currently using and put it to work for the community to help a lot of people,” said Craig Pugh, director of operations of the company’s cook plant, where the fire occurred. “I hope we can just come by and look at that fire station and not need it again.”

The July 21 fire was extinguished in about an hour by the Houston County Fire Department with help from the Warner Robins and Perry departments. The fire caused “relatively minor damage,” said Julie DeYoung, a Perdue Farms spokeswoman. She said it did not cause a significant loss of production.

The new station also will be a selling point for the county’s newly acquired industrial tract near Frito Lay.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.