MILTON — Fire Chief Robert Toole will have to continue his wait for a new fire station in East Milton as Santa Rosa County Commissioners continue to discuss the best location for it.
"This is the initial attempt to get a new fire station built in East Milton since their existing firehouse at 5081 Ward Basin Road opened in 1965," said District 2 Commissioner Bob Cole.
Since the commission did not make a decision on where to build the new station at their meeting last week, the next step is for the county to have the two potential properties appraised then meet with the two owners, Milton Highway Property Investments LLC and Milton Crossings, and re-negotiate, which both companies have agreed to.
"It's typical government, hurry up and wait," Cole said. "I just want to see us get a fire house built. We should have built one five years ago."
"We are at a stalemate right now," Toole added.
The appraisals and negotiations are expected to take about 30 days, according to the county.
"We're still playing catch up," Cole said.
With the explosive growth in Pace and Pea Ridge and other priorities that came up for the county, the fire station kept getting pushed back.
Using Municipal Service Benefit Unit (MSBU) funding, this project now has the money to start purchasing land for the project.
According to the county's website, MSBU's are used by BOCCs to direct funding to certain areas of the county for improvements in infrastructure and fire protection.
The current firehouse is showing its age. Some new firefighting equipment has physically outgrown the building. According to Cole, some of the trucks cannot park in the structure because they do not fit.
Toole said they do have a second station located at 4616 Highway 87 S. It is a three-bay station with bathrooms and a storage area. It is staffed with volunteer firefighters when they can, but the chief's main concern is having the main station manned 24-hours a day with paid firefighters. The majority of Station 2 is used for storage of water rescue equipment, Toole said.
The National Fire Protection Association sets the regulations for staffing and equipping fire stations. East Milton is considered a combination station because they use paid and volunteer firefighters.
Cole said the county is checking to see if they own the plans for new Bagdad Fire Rescue station. He said that same kind of station is needed in East Milton.
"If we own the plans we can cut costs when we start to build the station,” Cole said.
According to Toole, the new station would improve response times.