ESD breaks ground on second fire station

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

Nearly four years after discussions began, Williamson County Emergency Services District (ESD) No. 4 turned some dirt in a celebration of progress.

Fire Station No. 2, to be located on Ronald Reagan Blvd. just north of State Highway 29 in Santa Rita Ranch, broke ground April 12 to mark the beginning of the construction phase.

President Dan Clark of the ESD Board of Commissioners took time to thank the developers of Santa Rita Ranch for the donation of land to build on.

“We are so excited to be out here, actually breaking ground,” he said. “The process started probably four years ago and here we are, finally. I just want to thank Ed Horne for helping us out on the land and the team.”

Horne was excited to see the project begin, saying Santa Rita was planned for 6,500 homes upon completion, with another 200 acres of multi-family and retail development.

“That means that within this location right here, there will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 30,000 people eventually living here in this area,” Horne said. “We’re building a future, and the future of that is being staked today to what we’re doing with the fire department and having this. These are the basics of what you’ve got to have when you’re in a community to service the people who are here. We are honored to be able to have the fire department and have you guys choose this site out here.”

Enjoying the festivities were residents and developers of Santa Rita, along with ESD board members, firefighters, Pct. 2 Commissioner Cynthia Long and contractors involved in the process.

“I know if you took time and spent time on this board, you had some dreams of making this happen, and this is a good start for us,” Fire Chief Anthony Lincoln said as he thanked past and present board members for their work in making the new station a reality.

Long echoed the appreciation for the work put in by the board commissioners.

“If anyone thinks this is a really lucrative job, think again,” she said. “This takes a lot of their time and I so appreciate them answering the call and being willing to do that.”

The original hope was to keep the cost of the new station under a $4.5 million budget, but rising construction prices over the last two years made that difficult. Recent estimates had the project coming in at over $5 million, but through meetings with the architects and contractor, the ESD was able to make some cuts through value engineering to get the cost down to about $4.7 million.

The decision was made in March to cover the additional costs through the general fund because sales tax revenues are surpassing budget projections.

Budgeted sales tax revenue for this year were $35,000 per month, but actual allocations averaged $39,000 monthly in 2017 and through the first three months of 2018, they have averaged $50,000.

The new station is set to be about 10,500 square feet. The site for the station is three acres.

It is anticipated to cover the eastern portion of the ESD, roughly east of US Highway 183, including the area east of the North Fork of the San Gabriel on the north end of the district.

Lincoln said the department is looking at the station opening in December. The station will have an engine company with three to four firefighters and room for EMS should the need arise in the future. Having a station closer to the growth in the east side of the district will have a number of benefits for residents, said Lincoln.

“This is a reduction in insurance premiums due to the geographic location of the station and reduces response times in the event of an emergency,” he said. “For the community it is an increase in staffed fire stations, which increases the daily on-duty staff to respond to a second and third emergency situation.”

Mike@LHIndependent.com

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