• Allen Turner

New Fair Bluff Fire and Rescue headquarters gets green light


Fair Bluff Fire and Rescue, Inc. signed a $1,426,877 contract Friday with K&S Builders Inc. of Proctorville for construction of a new headquarters to replace the old fire house/rescue building decimated by flooding after Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.

The 12-bay, 12,150-sq. ft. facility will be built on donated land at 152 Main Street and officials that hope work will be completed in time for formal dedication ceremonies to be held on Oct. 8, 2018, the second anniversary of Hurricane Matthew. A groundbreaking ceremony was conducted this past Oct. 8, the first anniversary of the flood.

Funding for the new facility comes from the Golden LEAF Foundation, the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Meares Singletary Farms, Inc. The largest chunk of assistance, a $500,392 grant, is from the Golden Leaf Foundation. The two-acre tract of land for the project was donated by Meares Singletary Farms, Inc., owned by family members of E.D. “Butch” Meares Jr., late former long-time fire and rescue chief in Fair Bluff.

Principals in Meares Singletary Farms are Connie Meares, widow of Butch Meares, Meares’ nephew, Norman I “Chip” Singletary and Singletary’s mother, Pat Singletary. The new fire/rescue station will be built on Main Street (U.S. 76), across from the late fire chief’s home.

Construction is expected to get underway around the first of the year. Stipulations by the Golden LEAF Foundation were that the construction contract had to be signed by Friday for the project to proceed, and the document was signed before the deadline.

Because of traditional seasonal slowdowns in governmental offices, officials believe it probably will take from now until the first of the year before all the necessary building and construction permits can be obtained from the Columbus County Inspections Department.

Fair Bluff Fire/Rescue Chief Travis Causey and Lt. Ken Elliott, the department’s operations director who has overseen planning and preparations for letting the construction contract, expressed appreciation Friday to Golden LEAF, Meares Singletary, FEMA and the Dept. of Homeland Security.

Elliott, who in addition to his volunteer work with the fire/rescue unit, is a full-time deputy in the Columbus County Sheriff ’s Office, is excited.

Besides 12 vehicle bays, the new facility will contain separate sleeping quarters and shower facilities for male and female ambulance and fire crews. The 12,150-sq. ft. facility compares to 9,000 sq. ft. the old 1976 building on Railroad Street that was destroyed by the flood. The old building had only 1 0 vehicle bays. A room designated for use as an emergency operations center, something the old building did not have, is included. The new building will contain a large room for training and meetings, although that room will be a little smaller than a similar room in the old building. “This facility will be more than adequate to meet our needs,” Elliott said.

Between insurance proceeds from the old building, the Golden LEAF grant and funds received from FEMA and Homeland Security, Elliott said he expects the new firehouse to be fully funded and that the department will not have to incur any debt to complete the project. “This new building will really be nice. Fire trucks have gotten longer by 10 or 15 feet over the last 10 years and with the larger new building, we’ll be able to park them end-to-end, which we couldn’t do in our old building,” Elliott said.

“This new building also allows for future growth. For example, we’ll be able to accommodate an additional fire truck or rescue vehicle in the future if the need arises.”

Since the 2016 flood, Fair Bluff Fire and Rescue has operated out of the National Guard Armory on West Main Street and, while both Causey and Elliott voiced appreciation to the state for providing the facility, it has not been optimal because vehicles are housed in the cavernous armory drill hall instead of in individual bays.

That has meant that in some instances, vehicles have had to be moved in order to allow egress by other vehicles needed for particular calls, sometimes resulting in short delays in response times, something that will be alleviated with the new building.

Brandon Love, a Fairmont architect, designed the new facility. He was the low bidder among eight architects who sought the design contract. Elliott expressed appreciation to all contractors who stepped up to provide competitive bids for the project.

In addition to K&S, which was awarded the contract, bidders included Bill Worley and Sons Inc. of Chadbourn, with a bid of $1,788,123, Construction Systems, Inc. of Fayetteville ($1,671,153), Graka Builders of Whiteville ($1,695,265) and Trigon of Whiteville ($1,644,355).

“All the bids were good ones, and we were impressed with all the bidders and with work they have done on similar projects in the past,” Elliott said.

The group decided on K&S, not only because they were the lowest bidder but also because they were impressed with similar facilities the company has built, particularly in Robeson County.

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