A unanimous City Council voted Tuesday to purchase a defunct automobile dealership on Greensboro Avenue for the purpose of a new fire station.

Less than month after first hearing the proposal, the council agreed to purchase the tract at 3200 Greensboro Ave. for $2.3 million.

“It’s exciting for the city and strategic for our operations now and into the future,” said Mayor Walt Maddox after the vote. “We look forward to continuing to ensure that the Tuscaloosa Fire and Rescue Service meets our standard of excellence.”

The sale price was $300,000 less than the $2.6 million asking price.

The City Council also agreed to a funding plan put forth last week by Maddox that would use savings from refinanced municipal bonds to cover the property expense.

Based on current market rates, refinancing the municipal bond issues secured for capital investments in 2010 and 2014 could result in immediate refunds of about $2.4 million.

Should refinancing not generate that much cash, Maddox suggested using proceeds from the Elevate Tuscaloosa sales tax increase — up to $250,000 per year for the next four years — to make up any difference.

On Aug. 6, the City Council heard a proposal from Maddox and Fire Chief Randy Smith to move Fire Station 5, which is now housed in Fire Station 1 on 15th Street, to the former Townsend Automotive dealership.

In addition to moving the fire operations there, Smith also recommends establishing the fire department’s fleet maintenance, logistics and administrative offices inside 24,000-square-foot building at the Greensboro Avenue site.

Upgrades to this existing structure in order to accommodate the fire department’s needs are expected to cost at least another $3 million, officials said.

The fire chief also presented statistics indicating that relocating Station 5 would reduce response time to fire and medical calls while eliminating the possibility of getting blocked by trains on the railroad tracks that are near Station 1.

Current fire response data indicates that Station 5 would immediately become the sixth-most active station out of the city’s total of 12 with an estimated 3,219 calls per year.

It also would reduce the number of responses required of stations 7, 1 and 2 — the top three most active stations in the Tuscaloosa Fire and Rescue Service — in the process, Smith said.

And current train movements, as collected from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s railroad crossing data, shows that the tracks near Station 1 can be blocked between three hours to six hours each day.

A new Station 5 at the corner of Greensboro Avenue and 35th Street with quick access to Interstate 359 will reduce help rescue crews dodge these trains in the event of an emergency, Smith said.

 

Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.