Construction may begin next week on a new 9,200 square foot fire hall for the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department.
Fire Chief Charlie Parker says the new two story addition will connect to the existing fire hall behind city hall. "We're adding on to the existing city hall building. There will be a little space in between. It will be a stand alone building but walkways will connect the two buildings. We will have rooms downstairs for some storage and on the second floor, there will be a large training room, and a living quarters with bedrooms and bunk rooms where hopefully we can have some full time firefighters in the near future. There will be a kitchen area and bathrooms up there. We're trying to set this up for the future and not just what we're needing right now."
"It is going to be a two story building. Each level is 4,600 square feet, or a total of 9,200 square feet between the two floors. It will be a masonry structure on the bottom made of concrete blocks and brick. The main structure will be steel on the inside with brick on the outside all the way around. It's actually going to be little taller than the city hall building is now because of the height of the garage doors. We had to get 14 feet high in order to get the trucks in on the bottom level. We're going to continue to use the three bays that we have there now and we're adding three more bays on to that. These are going to be drive through bays and they will be quite a bit larger where we can accommodate a bigger truck, like a ladder truck for future expansion. We would like to have already had one (ladder truck), but with the constraints of the existing building in size we didn't have any place to put it, and there was no need of having a truck of that expense setting outside. The bays will be roughly about 65 feet long so we could actually park two shorter trucks back to back and take them out, one on each street, Walnut or Main Street. They will be able to enter from one street and drive all the way through the building to the other street."
"As of right now we have four vehicles including two fire engines, a rescue, and a utility or service vehicle. One of those vehicles is setting outside. This new fire hall will allow us to get all four vehicles inside and allow for future expansion."
Chief Parker says the new building will come with a sprinkler system and backup generators. "The new building will be fully sprinkled so it will meet all the new NFPA specs. That's one of the things we're pushing is fire safety and with sprinklers in the building we're setting a good example for the other businesses. It will also have generators so we'll be able to operate in case of power outages. As they're putting the garage doors on the new building, part of the deal is to change the doors on the old building too so they will match. They're needing repair and replacing anyway."
A ground breaking ceremony was held earlier this week and Parker says some work should begin on Monday morning. "That's when they are going to start removing some of the trees and begin tearing up the pavement in the back parking lot, ripping it out and hauling it off."
The new fire hall should be completed by April, if winter weather doesn't slow the project.
Parker says other than taking up some parking places, the construction will not interfere with the operation of the fire department in any way.
The city budgeted $900,000 for the project and J & S Construction got the bid to build the fire hall.
Chief Parker says once the building is finished, the department would like to explore the possibility of purchasing a ladder truck. "We would like to buy a ladder truck. It's expensive but we are in need of it. We have several large factories inside the city. During the devastating fire we had at Moog a couple of years ago, the first piece of outside equipment we called for, some kind of aerial device, was a ladder truck from Cookeville and Monterey. That was the closest one available. We had none in the city or the county. It would be the same thing again if we had another major fire."
"It doesn't have to be a three or five story building. We could use a ladder truck in the downtown area where you can't really get ladders up on those old buildings. There's several places around, not just the factories, where we could use that truck. So after we get the building built, we have a schedule of events and that's one thing we'll try for."
Parker says he believes the city is large enough to have a few paid full time firefighters. "It's a city council and a community decision, but we think Smithville can support some full time firefighters on the job. The way the community is changing and growing and the way that laws and insurance regulations are changing, we need them. We enjoy helping the community but it takes a lot of time."
"We're looking at a combination department, where there would be some full time firefighters. We would still have a large number of volunteers that would do quite a bit of the work, but the full time people, at the fire hall, could leave quicker with the trucks, improving response time. Those paid personnel could be in the truck and enroute when a call comes in. Plus, there are other things they can do as far as pre-planning, checking things ahead of time, and getting some things lined up."