Officials met at the corner of Salem and Harrison roads Friday morning with shovels in hand. A ground breaking ceremony marked the start of construction on the new McDuffie County Fire Station One, South McDuffie.
"It's been a long time coming," said Fire Chief Bruce Tanner. "I appreciate the work of the commissioners and (County Manager Don) Norton. ...I just look forward to moving in."
After the bitter battle on locating the new station, officials were glad to see the nearly $1 million project get underway. The building will be about 7,900 square feet and include an emergency operations center as well as training space.
"This is an important day for McDuffie County," said Commission Chairman Charlie Newton. "...We've been limping a lot of years in the (station) we've got."
The current South McDuffie station - located across Harrison Road from the Law Enforcement Center - is in the path of the future eastern bypass. In early 2003, longtime volunteer firefighter Paul Watson and his family donated land slightly further south on Harrison Road for the new station to be built.
As the relocation of the station became imminent, Chairman Newton asked that fire officials explore the possibility of relocating Station One even further South toward Boneville to better spread fire protection around the county.
That led to several heated discussions at commission meetings between Mr. Watson and county officials. After consulting Insurance Services Office personnel, Chief Tanner found that moving the station would have no impact on ISO ratings, which determine fire insurance premiums for residents.
Station One became the second manned station in the unincorporated area of the county last summer. Station Two at the airport is manned 24 hours a day while station one is manned 12 hours a day.
According to Mr. Norton, the new station is scheduled for completion in spring of 2007. The new headquarters station will be located on nearly three acres of land, leaving room for future expansion if necessary.