City acquires land for ninth fire station

By HASKEL BURNS,

After a short civil action case, the City of Hattiesburg has acquired the title to the property on U.S. 49 just north of Pep’s Point Road that will soon be used to build the city’s ninth fire station.

Hattiesburg City Council voted 5-0 last week to acknowledge the final judgment in the case and authorize payment of $62,735.20 as a final settlement to SAIA Motor Freight Line, the owners of the 1.95-acre parcel of land at 7450 U.S. 49. Council members had previously authorized City Attorney Randy Pope to deposit $87,750 into the court registry in advance of the trial.

“Our appraiser testified that what (SAIA) should be paid was $105,000,” Pope said. “Their appraiser testified that it was $190,000, which is what always happens, which is why you have a trial.

“What the jury did was to add the two together and divide by two, so they came back with $147,500. The difference in what he had deposited, which was the $87,750, and that amount was $60,000, and then we had a little over $2,000 in interest. So that’s where the $62,000 came from.”

Workers have already begun removing trees from the site, with officials expecting construction to start early next year. Construction of Fire Station 9, which will feature three bays and a ladder truck, is expected to cost between $2.5 million and $3 million.

“It is a big deal,” Pope said. “I learned … that this is going to bring our fire rating to a 3, which is big. It will help everyone’s insurance.

“The nearest fire station we have to serving that area is the fire station near the intersection of 49 and 42. That’s a number of miles away, so this will serve this area up there, and that will help our fire rating.”

In late 2017, council members voted to institute a 3-mill increase on ad valorem taxes, with 1 mill going to the construction of the upcoming fire station and the other 2 mills set aside for future debt service on the upcoming Hattiesburg Public Safety Complex. Residents in the Hattiesburg Public School District only saw an increase of 0.26 mills, as the amount of millage needed to fund the school district’s budget decreased.

“Any time you can upgrade facilities, it’s a positive recruiting and retention tool for your manpower,” Mayor Toby Barker said in an earlier story. “As the city grows, obviously we want to show that we’re going to put the investment into city services for areas that will have positive effects (because of this).

“Furthermore, if we can improve our fire rating, it will just help insurance rates for our residents and our business owners.”

Council members also voted Tuesday to accept the proposal of Community Bank at a 1.82 percent interest rate for the recently-approved $4.1 million in general obligation notes for demolition, construction and furnishing of fire stations and the purchase of fire apparatus.

A majority of that funding - $3.3 million – will go toward the construction of Fire Station No. 9.

The remainder of the $4.1 million obligation note will supplement Federal Emergency Management Agency funding for Fire Station No. 2, which will be constructed at the site of the former Big Yank building on Edwards Street. The original Fire Station No. 2, which was located on Arledge Street, was heavily damaged by the January 2017 tornado that rolled through the area.

The principal on the obligation note will be paid annually, and will mature and be payable on the following dates:

· December 3, 2020: $772, 254

· December 3, 2021: $795,420

· December 3, 2022: $819,285

· December 3, 2023: $843,863

· December 3, 2024: $869,178

“That (1.82 percent) is pretty good for a five-year note,” Pope said.