Newnan Fire Chief Stephen Brown updated the Newnan City Council on plans for an improved fire training facility at the council’s meeting Tuesday afternoon.
Residents voted for SPLOST 2019 that included $1,750,000 for an upgraded fire training facility. The city has access to 10.35 acres owned by Newnan Utilities on Corinth Road as a consideration for the site.
The current training facility, which both the city and the county use, is 4.275 acres located on Greison Trail.
City staff acquired 2WR, an architectural firm, to study the existing site and the potential new site to prepare conceptual plans and cost estimates. Brown said the existing site has served the fire department well.
“As you can see, it's an eyesore,” Brown said. “It does need an upgrade.”
The concept for updating the current training facility would include a new burn building and remodeling the existing tower. Brown said they would also add more parking and move the training classroom.
Brown said it would also have a bigger driver training course and expanded drafting pit for when the fire department has to complete it’s yearly pump testing.
The new classroom would be bigger and would include women’s and men’s locker rooms. The estimated cost of updating the existing site would be $3,382,446. After SPLOST funds are applied, that would leave the remaining cost at $1,632,446.
Brown said the pros of updating the existing site are its location and ability to maintain current response times, lower cost, existing utilities, that it meets the department’s current needs and is a potential LINC trailhead location. He said the con is that it’s smaller than the potential location on Corinth Road.
The potential new site off Corinth Road would be nearly the same as the proposed upgrades to the existing location, but would include a larger driving course and larger classrooms.
The estimated cost for the new site is $6,532,412. After SPLOST funds are applied, the remaining cost would be $4,782,412.
Brown said the pros of the new location are more room for driver training and more classroom space for potential partners. He said the cons are that the site is not centrally located which may affect response times, there are no onsite utilities and the cost of the project.
The potential schedule for the project, based on SPLOST revenue collection projections and other projects currently taking place, would have the design phase begin in October 2022 and construction in the fall of 2023, and the training facility would be operational in the summer of 2024.
Brown said the fire department would prefer to keep the training facility at the current location because it would allow them to maintain current response times, and because of the difference in cost in building a new facility.
Council member Dustin Koritko asked if the county has their own fire training facility. Brown said the county doesn’t and uses the city’s. Koritko also asked if the county would expect to continue using the fire training facility after it’s upgraded.
Brown said he assumes that they would, and the last time he spoke with the county, they were wanting to move a training facility to Ishman Ballard Road, which he said would be too far out of the city for the Newnan Fire Department.
Koritko also asked if upgrading the existing facility would give the fire department enough space to grow.
“For the city of Newnan, our existing location on Greison Trail would accommodate us for many years,” said City Manager Cleatus Phillips. “If it’s going to continue to be a joint venture between the city and the county, we would struggle in that location.”
Phillips said if the city decides to stay at the Greison Trail location, they would have to have conversations with the county to determine what they plan to do. He said if the city and county were to jointly build a fire training facility, there would need to be a financial agreement and an operational agreement.
“There needs to be time where our firemen can get in and do our training,” Phillips said. “There are times right now, to be completely honest, that we cannot get in to do our training, especially when they’re putting on their rookie school.”
Phillips said they have looked at a joint location with the county on Ishman Ballard Road, but they were uncomfortable with how far outside the city limits it was. He said Newnan firefighters train while on duty.
“There are some questions, probably bigger questions that need to be answered about the relationship between the city and the county, in my opinion, as it is about what our needs are,” Phillips said. “Our needs are pretty clear.”
“I’d like to see us move out to the new location,” said Mayor Keith Brady. “It’s more money, I understand that, but it’s also forward-looking.”
Brady said he sees the location on Corinth Road as a LINC trailhead with additional parking.
“I just think the location has served its time on Greison Trail, but as much as you try to put all the shrubbery that you want to in front of it, it still is what it is — a training facility,” Brady said.
Brady added that the city has plenty of time before they make a decision. He said first, they need to solve the communication and training issues between the city and the county.