Fort Mill Times

Fire station talks heat up in Tega Cay

Tega Cay leaders know they’ll need a new fire station. They’re now talking about how they’d go about paying for it.

At its special called meeting Monday night, Council discussed financing options for a new fire station. Plans were shown for a $2.6 million cost. Charlie Funderburk, city manager, called that number a guess at present. He’d like to be looking into architectural and engineering options by the fall, at which point he’d have a better feel of what’s needed.

“Then we’re going to know, is it $2.5 million?” he said. “Is it $1.5 million, $3.5 million? What is the number?”

Funderburk showed a 15-year bond anticipating a 3 percent growth rate for the city. There are potential outside funding sources for a fire station, but the figures Mondayshowed the cost if only the city pays. Those figures are an option, Funderburk said, and no plan is set.

“It’s just, if we wanted to, this is what it would look like,” he said.

The city currently has about $8.5 million in debt. Bob Bartkin, finance director for the city, said the bond estimate would add $20 in taxes per $100,000 in property value.

“Whatever the option is,” said Councilman Stephen Perkins, “that’s the way we’ve got to look at it. What is it for the average household?”

Bartkin said the total to be paid annually by residents, at least in the near term, is less than what’s already projected to pay back debt service.

“And that’s without increasing a mil,” he said.

But, said Councilwoman Dottie Hersey, the fire station wouldn’t be the only debt.

“There’ll always be other needs,” she said.

A specific site wasn’t shown at the meeting. The Stonecrest area was discussed. Dale Watts, a 32-year member of the fire department and current president, said a new safety complex is needed. Something large enough for a ladder truck and other apparatus is key, as is the eventual site.

“The main thing is to be centered in what is Tega Cay,” he said.

Annexation and other growth in recent years make the geography more challenging than it was when the current station on Tega Cay Drive was constructed even before Watts arrived. The department hasn’t determined whether the existing station would remain as-is if a new station comes, or if all response would come from the new site.

“Tega Cay and the surrounding area are growing so fast,” Watts said, “there may be a need for both.”

The department has eight paid firefighters now. The 2013-14 city budget, to be open for public comment and approval in August, would add two more positions. The result would be 24-7 operation for the once-volunteer unit.

“It’s really progressed along with the city,” Watts said.