BONHAM — The new Bonham Fire Station will be a state-of-the-art facility that can accommodate the future growth of a department that serves a community that is at the heart of Union County’s growing manufacturing sector.
In December, Union County Council voted unanimously to authorize a loan of $300,000 from the Union County Economic Development Fund to the Bonham Fire Department to help the department build a new fire station. The decision to do so was driven in large part by the county’s efforts to promote economic development in general, particularly the manufacturing sector, a significant portion of which is located in the Bonham Community.
Supervisor Frank Hart said at the time that the loan was part of the county’s efforts to facilitate the $290 million “Project Wolverine” being developed in the county spec building in Union Commerce Park off US 176. Hart pointed out that the county had acquired the department’s old fire station which was located on SC 18. He said the site is part of the property the county would be transfererring to Project Wolverine as part of an incentive package. With the loan, Hart said the county will help the department build its new station and relocate its operations and equipment there.
Bonham Fire Department provides fire protection for the residents and businesses of the Bonham Community including the Gestamp and Gonvauto plants and Project Wolverine.
Since the county acquired its old fire station, the department’s firefighting equipment and fire trucks have been located in the old school bus shop off SC 18.
They won’t be there much longer, however, as ground was broken Monday for the department’s new fire station which will be located at the corner of Oakland Road and SC 18.
Current and former members of the Bonham Fire District Board used gold shovels to ceremonially break ground on the site, signaling the beginning of the construction process.
Among those who spoke at Monday’s ceremony was Hart who said “today is a red letter day for the Bonham Fire District and Union County as we officially kick-off the construction of a new state-of-the-art fire station which will provide fire protection for this community for years to come. This project is a great example of what we can achieve when we work together toward a common goal.”
Bonham Fire District Chairman Chris Scott also addressed those attending Monday’s ceremony, and spoke about the role the industrial growth occurring in Bonham Community had played in the decision to build a new fire station, a fire station he said would be designed to accommodate the department’s future growth.
“The increase of industry here in this district pointed us in this direction,” Scott said. “Gestamp needed our land and we needed bigger facilities with the possibility of growth in the near future, the possibility of more trucks and more firefighters. It will be easier for us to house them.”
Bonham Fire Chief Scott Austin also discussed the state-of-the-art nature of the new fire station and its ability to meet the growing and changing needs of the department.
“It’s going to be state-of-the-art, a major upgrade from where we came from,” Austin said. “The old building was 8,000 square feet. The new one is going to be 9,300 square feet.”
Like Scott, Austin said the new station will be designed so it can be expanded if the growth in the district requires the department to have more trucks and personnel, including personnel who would be stationed there overnight. Austin said that if growth continues to occur the department will consider the possibility of having a couple of paid firefighters who would be stationed there so the facility would be manned both day and night. He said this is why the new station is also equipped with a full sprinkler system as is required by law if firefighters are sleeping there at night.
The new fire station will cost $1.2 million to build and is being funded with the loan from the county which the district will pay off over seven years; $500,000 from a bond issue; $100,000 from the SC Department of Commerce; and the rest from the district’s tax revenues.
State Rep. Mike Anthony was among the dignitaries who attended the groundbreaking ceremony. He and State Sen. Shane Martin were instrumental in securing the funding from the SC Department of Commerce for the project. Anthony said that he and Martin had worked together at the behest of the Bonham Fire Department to secure the funding.
“It show the fact that we got so much growth up here,” Anthony said. “We told them we’d go to Commerce. We did and we said we need this badly.”
Anthony said he was happy to assist Bonham Fire Department in getting the funding, praising the firefighters for the job they do.
“These guys are very well-organized,” Anthony said. “They do a great job for their community.”
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.