In 2011, when the City of Hattiesburg received word from the Mississippi State Rating Bureau that it had maintained its Class 4 fire rating, the bureau laid out a set of guidelines for the city to keep that rating – chief among them the construction of a ninth fire station.
One of the first steps in that goal was accomplished on May 20, when Mayor Toby Barker and other city officials held a ceremonial groundbreaking at the future site of Fire Station No. 9, located at 7450 U.S. 49 just north of Pep’s Point Road.
“Today we officially break ground on this facility – not just to keep our commitment to do it, not just to help the existing residents and businesses of north Hattiesburg, but to also plan for the future growth of our city in this direction and continue moving our department toward Chief (Sherrocko) Stewart’s goal of seeing us achieve Class 3 fire rating in the future,” Barker said. “I know the past two months have been filled with a lot of challenges, marred by daily reports of sickness and hospitalization and death.
“We are here to show our citizens, and remind ourselves, that even in the seemingly worst of times, in those seasons blanketed with frustration and grief, that the Hattiesburg spirit of going after big things remains. That spirit will carry us over through these tough times, and we will cast our eyes toward that horizon filled with much brighter and healthier days.”
The land for Fire Station No. 9 was acquired in November 2019 after a 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.
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.
The new fire station will allow fire officials to get to scenes more quickly, with response times expected to drop to 3 to 5 minutes, as opposed to the current 6 to 12 minutes. In addition, the station is expected to have a positive impact on insurance rates, particularly for the residents who live and work in that area.
“For example, right now, if you’re in this part of the city, even though you’re in the city limits, because you’re so far away from the rest of the fire stations, you’re getting Class 10 insurance rates,” Barker said. “So you’re going to see 10 to 20 percent, in terms of basic mercantile facilities, in terms of savings on insurance rates.
“Churches (will have) 2 to 14 percent savings. Police stations, fire stations – those things help insurance ratings, and these folks up here who are doing their work will go from a Class 10 to a Class 4.”
Construction on the $2.3 million facility, which is financed on a five-year note, is made possible by a millage increase that was passed in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget. The 10,000-square-foot station is expected to open early next year and will feature four trucks with another bay for additional equipment, a tornado safe room, enough bedrooms for shifts of eight firefighters and a police substation.
“This is a great day for the City of Hattiesburg and for the Hattiesburg Fire Department,” Stewart said. “Bringing this Station 9 here is going to help out in so many areas that the mayor spoke on earlier, and I just want to thank you guys for keeping this dream alive.”
Ward 1 Councilman Jeffrey George said it was an exciting day for his ward, the fire department and the entire city.
“This station right here that we are building in the northern part of our city shows our administration and our city council’s commitment to the importance of the most basic function of city government, which is public safety,” he said. “I’m very excited to see progress on this project already, and I look forward to rejoining you all here in a few months to hopefully cut a ribbon on this building.”