By Caitlin Rickard
City leaders held a public forum Thursday night at Stonebridge Community Clubhouse to discuss a possible new fire station on the west side of Lebanon.
“We’ve heard your concerns, and I think we all feel obligated to get a fire hall on this side of town,” Mayor Philip Craighead said.
Along with Craighead, Fire Chief Chris Dowell and councilors Joe Hayes and Tick Bryan were also in attendance to address the public on the proposed plans and answer any questions.
Craighead said the last fire station was added in Lebanon 12 year ago, and for the newly proposed station, the city was thinking about using the same plans but adding additional space for things like sleeping quarters.
Currently, the city has three fire stations, one by the square near the courthouse, one near University Medical Center and one past Five Oaks subdivision.
Covering those three areas leaves the area of west Lebanon with a longer amount of time to get fire response, Craighead said.
The proposed building site would be 17 acres near 109 and south of I-40.
Dowell said with this additional fire station in this area, hopefully that would encompass everyone in the city with equal response time.
Right now, Dowell said it takes around 13-14 minutes to get response to the west side area of Lebanon. He said his target response would be in the 3-5 minute range.
Along with a new fire station, Craighead said the fire department is also shopping for a new fire truck — to the tune of $800,000 — and a big cost for a new station would also be manpower.
With three shifts at five men per shift, it would take about $900,000 to fund firefighters at a new station, Craighead said.
Craighead said a new thing the city is looking at to save money is adding volunteer firefighters. Volunteers would be fully trained and equipped and spread out among the four different stations equally.
Craighead said it would be up to the council to support the project and also to decide where to get the money to fund it.
“It’s not something we can sprinkle water on the ground and it comes out,” Dowell said. “Even if we started today, we’re still over a year out.”
Dowell said another big reason the west area needed a station is because he didn’t think it was right for the citizens of that area to pay for something for which they weren’t getting an adequate service.
Craighead also echoed, saying even with the way things are now, when other stations leave to answer calls in west Lebanon, it leaves the area that station left from empty and thus one area is always left out.
“Things are growing out this way; if we don’t catch up with the time we’re going to be in trouble,” Dowell said. “I have to help the citizens. This my life, to make sure every citizen in Lebanon is protected.”
Craighead said it was the city’s responsibility to make sure that everyone in the city had the same services everyone else did, but like everything in life, nothing is free.
Craighead said council would need to have a work session to discuss the issue in more detail and also determine where funding would come from.
“This city has an excellent rating for borrowing money, so we could borrow, but we also have $8 million or $9 million in reserve funds where we could get money from there, too,” Craighead said.
Craighead said they were still in the process of “putting the pieces together” and determining how much money would be needed and finalizing plans.
Council would next have to vote on the proposal for a new fire station for it to move forward.
Craighead said, were the council to have a 3-3 tie, he’d vote in favor of a new station and without having a work session, yet Hayes said he believed at least three or four councilors would already be in favor of this.