Columbia County's fire protection system soon will expand -- and taxpayers will save money.
At a bid opening Thursday, county officials accepted the bid of about $1.5 million from Stewart Corbitt General Contractors to expand a fire station and construct two new ones.
"He worked real well with us," Glenn O'Steen, county procurement manager, said of the contractor, who also renovated the building housing the Emergency Operations Center on Ronald Reagan Drive.
The budget for the project was $1.74 million, and all except one of the 10 bids came in significantly under budget.
"That's amazing. That's great," O'Steen said.
The project includes constructing new fire stations where personnel currently operate out of trailers and expanding a third to accommodate fire and emergency medical personnel.
The Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue station on White Road will be moved to Euchee Creek Drive near the Euchee Creek Library and Columbia County Senior Center, providing a permanent facility and better access to several major roads, said Pam Tucker, the director of the county's Emergency and Operations Division.
"We've got to get them out of these trailers," Tucker said.
The station on Sugar Creek Drive, which houses an aerial truck and Gold Cross Emergency Medical Service personnel, will add four bedrooms and a storage area.
The project also includes a new fire station on Ray Owens Road in Leah to replace a trailer.
"Leah, of course, has some of the worst storms in the whole county ... and have for years now," Tucker said. "And they are in a trailer."
Because the bids for the project were so far below the projected budget, two "alternates" will be included.
"Alternates are things we can or cannot live without. ... The wish list," O'Steen said, adding that one will be to use more energy-efficient insulation. "We can do all of them."
Construction of the Leah station, on the site of the former Leah High School, also will include building an area dedicated to the school.
"One of them (an alternate project) is a memorabilia room/museum for the old Leah High School that is going to be built onto the Leah fire station," Tucker said.
Columbia County Historical Society members offered assistance with the special project about a year ago.
"Honest to goodness, I didn't think from that point until today that we thought we would be able to do this," Tucker said.
"The old school arch will be repaired and put on the site," she added, referring to a concrete arch, built by the Depression-era Works Progress Administration, at the school's entrance.
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