Wednesday, December 19, 2018

At New Fire House Dedication, Oconee County Officials Note Commercial Demands And Possible Future Need For Paid Firefighters

***Ladder Truck Planned***

The “ribbon” was a yellow fire hose.

Rather than cut it, Oconee County Fire Chief Bruce Thaxton and Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell uncoupled it.

With that uncoupling, Thaxton said, “We’re now dedicating Station 8 to Oconee County.”

The new station, on Virgil Langford Road just south of SR 316, replaces the Barber Creek station on the Oconee Connector between Daniells Bridge Road and SR 316 and serves the county’s commercial development along the Epps Bridge Parkway corridor.

Trucks and equipment already were in place when the official “ribbon” cutting took place on Dec. 6, and the 40 people in attendance were offered the chance to tour the facility.

C.J. Worden, Oconee County Emergency Management Agency director, provided a video tour of the facility, which has been designed to accommodate not only the 29 volunteers currently on the roll for the new station but also paid firefighters at some point in the future.

Ceremonial Comments

“This is one of the first things we talked about when I took office back in 2008,” Daniell said in his brief comments. He credited “A lot of good planning and good work from the previous Board of Commissioners” with the project’s success.

Thaxton, Center Left, Daniell, Center Right, Uncouple Hose

The four current commissioners, Chuck Horton, Mark Saxon, Mark Thomas, and William “Bubber” Wilkes, were in attendance.

Also at the 5 p.m. gathering on Dec. 6 were Deborah Gonzalez, currently representing Oconee County from the 117th House District, and her successor, Houston Gaines. Marcus Wiedower, who will represent the 119th House District in January, also was in the audience.

Kevin Price, whose company, Kevin Price Construction, 2500 Daniells Bridge Road, built the station, also was there.

Thaxton said he was appreciative of “the support from the citizens, commissioners, to make this possible. This is really great for us.”

“This meets our needs today, but the most important thing, it meets our needs in the future,” Thaxton said. “Some day, when we decide that we need some paid firefighters, this station is ready--ready to go.”

Features Of Station

The $2.1 million station has two drive-through bays and one bay for EMS vehicles. Funding comes from the county’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.

The 9,286 square foot structure includes training and work areas, an office, and storage space.

To accommodate a future paid force, the building has10 bunk rooms, restrooms with showers, a kitchen and laundry.

Station 8 also has a dedicated day room, kitchen, and bunk and shower area for an EMS staff.

Worden showed me each of these areas in the tour he gave me, which I video recorded and included in the video below.

Old Station

Thaxton reminded those gathered that the old station was on donated land, which the county gave up in a land-swap to obtain the new property.

Thaxton said citizens helped raise the money for the old station and volunteer firefighters helped build it.

The county broke ground on that station 27 years ago, Thaxton said.

“We are here today because we have outgrown that station,” Thaxton added.

The station answers about a third of the fire calls in the county, he said.

Ladder Truck

A 70-foot platform ladder truck is on order and will be housed at Station 8 in June, Thaxton said.

The station and the ladder truck are needed to serve the Epps Bridge Parkway commercial area, he explained.

During the tour, Worden said the 29 volunteers on the roll for the station are part of a volunteer fire department with about 160 members.

“We’ve got a great group of volunteers here in the county, and they really serve our needs well,” Worden said. The county does not have the need for a paid firefighter workforce at present, he said.

“But the time could come that we may need that,” he said. “So we’re ready to go when that happens.”

In the meantime, volunteers can use the extra space in the station as a place to gather and prepare for their work, he said.


The video of the ribbon cutting ceremony and of my tour with Worden is below.

In his introductory comments, Thaxton acknowledged Gaines and Wiedower , mistakenly identifying them as the representatives for House District 117 and House District 119 respectively. They were elected in November and will represent the county in the General Assembly in January.

Thaxton subsequently acknowledged Deborah Gonzalez, who is the current District 117 representative.

Commissioner Thomas was not present when Thaxton introduced the other commissioners, though he did arrive for and participated in the “ribbon” cutting.

In my questions to Worden while on the tour I mistakenly said that Thaxton said 28 volunteers serve Station No. 8. Thaxton said 29.

The video begins with the ceremony.

At 10:06 in the video, the tour with Worden begins.

That tour is followed by an outside view of the fire station in the video and then by two short clips from inside the fire station at the refreshment table.

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