Bids being taken for fire station

By HASKEL BURNS,

Hattiesburg City Council members voted 5-0 Tuesday to approve plans and specifications for Fire Station No. 9 and authorize advertisement for bids for the project, marking one of the last steps before construction of the city’s newest fire station.

The fire station will be located on a 1.95-acre parcel of land at 7450 U.S. 49, just north of Pep’s Point Road.

“That part of Ward 1 has been in need of a fire station, for parts that are currently in the city, as well as in the proposed annexation of that area,” Ward 1 Councilman Jeffrey George said. “We need to have a fire station; it’s been told to us by the State Rating Bureau, and any time we can invest in public safety by adding a new station, that’s beneficial for the entire city.”

Architectural specifications for the project, which are being handled by Landry Lewis Germany Architects of Hattiesburg, include project summary and compliance data, existing topography and demolition plan, and a proposed turn lane addition site layout. A visitor parking lot will be located to the south of the fire station and will connect with U.S. 49, while the employee parking lot will connect with Irby Road.

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.

Sealed bids for the project will be accepted until 10 a.m. January 23 at Hattiesburg City Hall, 200 Forrest Street in Hattiesburg. The bids will be publicly opened, and the award will be made by Hattiesburg City Council members based on the lowest and best bid received.

“I’m excited to see it happen, and I hope that once it is complete, that’ll we’ll be able to see our fire rating (improve) and our insurance rates go down because of it,” George said. “It’ll be a great city facility to have on 49 North as people are coming into the city.”

The land for Fire Station No. 9 was acquired late last month after a short civil case regarding the matter. Council members voted 5-0 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 land.

Council had previously authorized City Attorney Randy Pope to deposit $87,750 into the court registry in advance of the trial.

“It is a big deal,” Pope said in a previous story. “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 recently voted 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.