The new Forsyth County Fire Station 3 debuted Thursday with a ceremony reflecting on the sense of community and history in the area.
Fire Chief Danny Bowman nodded to both the volunteers, who built the first Station 3 just down the road in 1973, and the Wallis Tatum family who sold the land to the county for the new one.
“To the Matt community, I assure you as your fire chief, this is not our fire station,” Bowman said. “This truly is your fire station.”
The two-bay station off nearby Matt Highway in northwestern Forsyth takes the No. 3 title from the former facility on Dr. Bramblett Road, which opened in 1982.
Voters approved the new fire station in 2008 as part of a special purpose local option sales tax referendum, or SPLOST VI, which included $3.45 million for all costs associated with the facility.
When sales tax collections trickled in slower than expected, Bowman and the county reduced the scope of the project from four bays to two to lower construction costs, which totaled nearly $1.6 million.
Work on the station started in September.
Bowman said the new station is expected to allow “quicker response times” in the community.
Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills added that the facility allows for 24-hour occupancy, increased bay capacity and an improved ventilation system.
Mills, who represents the county’s northern district, expressed personal excitement of the opening of the station in the Matt community, the place she “calls home.”
“I couldn’t be happier today to see this fire station serve the residents of the Matt area, in northwest Forsyth County, for many years to come,” she said. “I’m pleased that our county was able to acquire this land, not only for this fire station, but for Matt Community Park that will adjoin it, for hopefully one day a library and also a senior citizen center.”
The county purchased 185 acres of land as part of the voter-approved parks, recreation and green space bond, of which 3 acres was later bought through sales tax funding for the station.
Formerly owned by the family of Wallis Tatum, Mills said she believed the community man would be happy to have seen this use of his property.
“I have thought about Wallis looking down from Heaven, and it’s like he’s being made the mayor of Matt,” she said. “He was such a giving and loving person, and I think it’s only fitting that this will be like a little township.”
She also thanked Bowman for preserving Tatum’s memory by using portions of the century-old barn that once sat on the site to make benches for the station.
Tatum’s grandson, John Mayes, attended the ceremony with a collection of Native American artifacts he found on the property as a child.
Mayes said he worked with the county and local historians to detail and document history on the site to preserve it even as development moves forward.
“If the land was going to be used for something, what a great use,” he said. “My granddad was very much a man of the community, and he would have been real pleased.”