Meridian Star

April 9, 2014

New fire department could be in the works

By Terri Ferguson Smith / tsmith@themeridianstar.com
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Officials are moving forward with a plan to try to construct a new fire house in the east central part of Lauderdale county.

    Alan Dover, county volunteer fire coordinator, said on Monday that although the area is currently served by surrounding volunteer fire departments, residents there cannot get a lower insurance rating because houses in the area are not in a five-mile radius of an existing department. So although those residents do receive fire protection from Center Ridge, Toomsuba and Lauderdale departments, they are not eligible for a lower insurance rate.

    "It's in an area out there around Luther Ray Cobb Road and Payne Road," Dover said. "It's been a class 10 unprotected since the inception of fire service in Lauderdale County."

    Dover said there are three essential needs that have to be met to open a volunteer station: personnel, water and equipment.

    "You can't get rated without those," Dover said.

    Dover said the need for personnel would be filled from the community with people donating their time as volunteer firefighters. The district would serve between 75 and 100 households, he said.

    It could happen as soon as 12 to 18 months from now, Dover said, if the grant comes through.

    "At the end of the day, we're here to help people," Dover said, "but at the same time we want to help them save on their insurance. That's the reason we're trying to do the expansion on the Northeast Fire Protection District, and also in the Meehan area. We're trying to push Meehan's Class 9 (rating) all the way down to the interstate so we're looking at building a station down there."

    District 2 Supervisor Wayman Newell said he will apply for a Community Development Block Grant that could provide as much as $600,000 to help buy a fire truck and build a new station. The county will have to contribute some funding for the project, but much of that can be done through in-kind service, Newell said.

    A local landowner has offered to give the county an acre and a half to use to build a fire house, but no decision has been made on the location. The county has not yet applied for the grant yet, so the project is in the very early stages, Newell said. As part of the grant application, he must first complete a door-to-door survey of residents to get their reaction to the proposal. So far the reaction has been positive, he said. He handed out surveys for residents to complete and he invited them to an upcoming meeting to discuss the issue.

    "Everybody I talked to said 'I'll be there. We need some protection, tremendously,'" Newell said.

    The meeting will be held at Elizabeth Baptist Church on Luther Ray Cobb Road at 10 a.m. on April 26.