By Patrick Yost Editor

Last Friday’s ribbon cutting of the new Morgan County Fire Station was covered by a long, drenching rain. No problem, now. Participants simply walked inside the expansive, three–bay garage of the station to enjoy a quick tour of the $1 million addition to Morgan County’s Public Safety Center. With the official opening, Morgan County Fire Chief and 911 Director Mark Melvin said the 12,000 square foot facility would add efficiencies to a growing department. “We are excited about the location,” Melvin said. “The location is really going to help our response times.” With Friday’s opening, the fire department has completely vacated its former building on Mission Road, which will become a new volunteer station, and is still in the final stages of moving equipment and personnel to the new location at the Morgan County Public Safety Center.

With the completion of the retrofit, a move that saved more than 50 percent of new construction costs said Morgan County Manager Michael Lamar, the public safety center is now fully utilized, housing the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, the Morgan County Detention Center and now fire and National EMS along with Morgan County Emergency Services. Melvin is also awaiting the delivery of a $250,000 pumper truck that the department expects to be delivered in November. Funds for the retrofit and pumper truck have all come from predesignated Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds approved by Morgan County voters.

The new station provides room for the three–truck bay, office space, a kitchen and day–room area for fire fighters and EMS personnel, bath and shower facilities and seven sleeping quarters. Currently, Melvin said, the department employs four full–time fire fighters and two part–time fire fighters. The location off Monticello Highway provides a central area for emergency response and offers ease of access to U.S. 441 and Interstate 20. Since 2010, Melvin said, demand for fire services has increased from 1,091 calls to 1,595 calls in 2013 and continues to grow. The fire department operated off a $625,000 budget in 2013.