Davidson is moving forward with plans for its second fire station.
The new facility would cover the sprawling east section of town, which includes significant sections of forest and farmland, but also large residential developments including River Run and Summers Walk.
While they didn’t vote on a specific proposal for the new station, Town Board members recently asked new Town Manager Jamie Justice to move forward with plans and come back to them with specifics on timing and paying for the project.
The $1.16 million station would be built on a 4.36-acre, town-owned tract near the Beaver Dam Historic House on Davidson-Concord Road. The town’s single existing station is attached to the Town Hall complex downtown.
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After initially considering a temporary second station that could be replaced with a permanent facility later, the town shifted to a “phased permanent” solution that involves building a basic station that can be expanded in the future, Assistant Town Manager Dawn Blobaum told Town Board members at the board’s Dec. 2 meeting.
The new station initially will include two truck bays, along with living quarters for a single engine company of up to four firefighters.
“Instead of building something that is literally a temporary station, we’re thinking now of building part of a permanent station,” Blobaum said. “So it will be built with quality materials and it will have everything the fire department needs for now, and maybe for a long time to come depending on how development in the rural area goes.”
Bo Fitzgerald, who took over as Davidson’s fire chief in August, told commissioners that the new station is just what he and his department of part-time firefighters need for the foreseeable future.
“Down the road, if the need grows, if the call volume on the east side increases to the point where we need to add a second (engine) company, we have room to expand,” the chief said. “(But) I don’t see the need to expand to two companies probably in my career here?”
“How long is that?” Commissioner Brian Jenest asked the 38-year-old Fitzgerald.
“Well, that’s a good question,” Fitzgerald replied with a laugh. “I’d say 20 years. A lot of it depends on how development goes out east, along (N.C.) 73.”
But Jenest suggested that the chief might be overly optimistic in his projections.
“I think your horizon is a lot closer,” Jenest told Fitzgerald.
The chief said what’s most important is getting a station up and running quickly, while having flexibility to grow in the future.
“We needed this out there years ago, obviously,” Fitzgerald said.
While much of the area to be covered by the new station remains rural, it’s location will allow firefighters to reach residential subdivisions along N.C. 73, Shearer Road and Rocky Road much faster than they can from the existing Station 1
“There a lot of things I like about the site strategically,” said Fitzgerald, who also works full time as a captain for the Charlotte Fire Department. “It covers a gap on the east side very well, and it provides an advantage as a backup for in town here, so that’s a big plus for me.”
The Mount Mourne and Cornelius fire departments cover Davidson if Davidson firefighters are out on a call, but those agencies also are stretched at times, the chief said, so the new station would help by easing demand on neighboring departments.
This year, Davidson firefighters will handle close to 1,500 calls, up from 272 calls in 1997, one of Fitzgerald’s first years as a volunteer while he was a college student at Davidson College. Call volume has grown especially quickly since 10 years ago, when firefighters became the first responders on medical calls, as well as for fires, traffic accidents and other emergencies.
John Deem is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org