For years, there has been discussion of a possible new fire station on Pittman Road, but it looks like the firefighters will have some company once it opens.
At a recent work session, Forsyth County commissioners voted 4-0, with the District 2 seat vacant, to approve plans for a new concept for the proposed Fire Station 11 with a west precinct for the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, after hearing from Fire Chief Danny Bowman and Sheriff Ron Freeman.
“I’m a little too old to get excited about things, but this is one of the most exciting things to come our way in quite some time and that is a joint venture between the fire department and the sheriff’s office,” Bowman told commissioners.
About three acres of land were purchased for a new fire station about 10 years ago, and Bowman said the proposed station will be a benefit to nearby residents.
“There are hundreds of homes out that way that their fire insurance rating is such that it says that there is no fire department. In other words, they’re over five road miles from a fire station,” he said.
Bowman said those rates would drop with the new station.
The plan came up during a meeting between senior staff of the two departments, which is held about every 60 days.
“I love the idea of our public safety officers being together, working together and having a one-stop shop and we serve our citizens,” Freeman said.
Freeman said he would prefer the west precinct to a new headquarters for the sheriff’s office, which previously has been discussed. The office currently operates out of the old Forsyth County courthouse in downtown Cumming, and Freeman said he could stay in the building “for the foreseeable future.”
“The reality is we are in a crunch for space; I’ve had that conversation with many of you,” he said. “But let me go on to say, building a new headquarters for the sheriff’s office is not my desire. Building a new headquarters for the sheriff’s office is not in my need.”
He said a west precinct, similar to the north precinct at Central Park and the south precinct at South Forsyth High School, would have a greater impact to the community than a new headquarters.
“That’s’ where our deputies are. That’s where they work out of,” Freeman said. “That’s where our property crimes detectives work out of. That’s where our citizens go get copies of police reports, accident reports, go file a report, talk to an officer and we’re there and they’re open.”
Both public safety agencies have opened or re-opened facilities this year. In March, the sheriff’s office reopened the south precinct, and Fire Stations 6, a new facility on Brookwood Road, and 8, which replaced a volunteer-era station on Keith Bridge Road, in March and April, respectively.
Funding for the fire station will come from fire impact fees collected on new developments. When discussing where the funds for the sheriff’s office would come from, Bowman offered to cover the front-end of the costs with fire impact fees.
“If it pleases the board, I’ll pay for the whole thing and then we’ll see how much space that the sheriff ends up with and he can pay us back over time.”
County Attorney Ken Jarrard said since the plan is just a concept, details, including payment, will continue to be worked out.
Bowman said he would prefer the fire department use architecture firm Hussey Gay Bell, as it has in the past.
Chairman Todd Levent praised the departments working together.
“I’ve been living in the county for I guess 28, 29 years and this is the first time that I have ever seen a relationship between our sheriff and our fire department like this, and as well the Board of Commissioners,” he said. “It’s very, very refreshing.”