Ward D candidates address West End fire station issue
Story by Chris Graham
Residents of Waynesboro’s West End have been asking the question for 20 years now.
Where is that fire station that you promised us?
The answer is not what they have been wanting to hear.
“We’re going to eventually need a West End fire station. The biggest problem is budgetary,” Ward C council incumbent Reo Hatfield said.
A version of that response has been given to West End residents since the 1986 annexation when it was all but promised by city leaders of that generation that a second city fire station would be built in the western half of the River City.
The issue has been revived in recent years with the rapid expansion of the Lew Dewitt Boulevard-Rosser Avenue corridor.
“We are in need in the long term of adding a fire station out there as we continue our development. We just aren’t financially able to do anything at this time. It’s a pretty intense expenditure – not just the capital costs, but the annual per-year costs of running a fire station,” Hatfield told The Augusta Free Press.
One of Hatfield’s two challengers for the Ward D seat in next week’s city elections, sitting Waynesboro School Board chair Lorie Smith, said the matter of funding could also be viewed as a matter of priorities.
“I believe that this is an issue that the council is going to need to take up here in the near term. And I believe that because of the amount of structures that has gone up out here,” Smith said.
“When we talk about the mere issue of housing developments in the city where we could see 500 units going up per year for the next five years – and the fire department is being asked to continually offer service as it has for years and years and years, and now we have all this growth – we’ve got to do more to protect citizens and their properties with this growth,” Smith told the AFP.
Challenger DuBose Egleston is critical of the move of the sitting city council – led by council member Frank Lucente – to kill the fire-station project along with the rest of the city capital-improvements plan last year.
“It’s something that is needed. The time response needs to be looked at. The impact on insurance rates needs to be looked at. This is something that the city needs to do,” Egleston told the AFP.
“If we had had stronger leadership on council, we could have had the major players contribute to the cost. For example, Wal-Mart contributed money to deal with stormwater management. We could have gotten them to chip in for this – and Lowe’s and Home Depot. You have to do these things up front, though,” Egleston said.