BONHAM — A new state-of-the-art fire station built as a result of a cooperative effort launched to accommodate the growth of the community got its formal opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday evening.
Located at 2091 Jonesville Highway, the $1.3 million Bonham Fire Station includes more facilities for the department’s 19 volunteer firefighters to make use of including a training room/kitchen combination, a physical fitness room, multiple offices, a day room, four drive-thru apparatus bays, a work area, and bathrooms with showers. The facility, larger than the old fire station which was located further down the Jonesville Highway, is also designed to accommodate any and all future growth the Bonham Fire Department may experience in the years ahead.
The construction of the new fire station was the result of a collaborative effort that involved the fire department and its governing board, Union County Council, State Sen. Shane Martin, State Rep. Mike Anthony, and the Bonham Community. The new facility and the collaborative effort that went into its construction was celebrated Thursday evening during the ribbon-cutting ceremony that formally opened the facility.
Chief Scott Austin called his department’s new station “a grand facility (that’s) been a long time coming. A lot of hard work went into it. The firefighters, the board, (Supervisor) Frank Hart and County Council, Mike Anthony, and Shane Martin all worked together to make it happen.”
While “nothing was wrong with the old station,” Austin said the new station is a “state-of-the-art, there’s nothing around here like it.” Austin said that the new station was built to accommodate the industrial development that is occurring in the Bonham Community, development that required the property the old station was located on. He said that in accommodating that development, the new station was built, a facility that he said will last a long time and be something everyone can be proud of.
Austin added that the new facility has cut the department’s response time from 7 1/2 minutes t0 a little less than 4 1/2 minutes. He said that this will help lower the district’s ISO rating from 4 to possibly 3 and this could in turn reduce fire insurance rates in the district.
In July 2016, Hart said that the old Bonham Fire Station was located adjacent to the Union Commerce Park and near the H. Mac Johnson Industrial Park, both of which are located between USC 176 and SC 18, and as such is a prime location for future industrial development. Hart made these remarks after Union County Council had voted to allocate $600,000 from the Economic Development Fund to help the Bonham Fire Department relocate and thus open up its old location for economic development, either in the recruitment of new industry or facilitating the expansion of existing industry.
The county continued to assist the Bonham Fire Department with its effort to relocate and build a new fire station in December 2016 when council voted to loan $300,000 from the Economic Development Fund to the department. The loan, which the department used to help build the new fire station, is to be repaid to the county over seven years at the rate of $42,857 a year.
Hart said at the time that the loan was part of the county’s efforts to facilitate “Project Wolverine,” the $290 million expansion of a local manufacturing facility which would generate 100 new jobs. He said the incentive package the county had assembled for Project Wolverine included transferring the old Bonham Fire Department site to the industry undertaking the expansion.
(It was revealed in 2017 that Project Wolverine was the expansion of the Gestamp manufacturing facility.)
Hart was one of the speakers at Thursday’s ceremony, and said that “when I look at the facility, I not only see a building, I see growth and teamwork. This building’s beginnings started with the Economic Development Board’s efforts to recruit new industry and expand our existing industry in Union County. As as result of that effort we were able to announce $250 million-plus investment in Union County which will provide millions in additional tax revenue in the coming years. This type of growth generates the tax base to support facilities like this.”
Also helping to secure funding for the construction of the fire station were Anthony and Martin, both of whom also spoke during the ceremony. They spoke about how, together, they went to the SC Department of Commerce to obtain additional funding from the state. Anthony said that he and Martin were happy to be able to play their part in the collaborative effort that resulted in the construction of the fire station.
“Shane and I were happy to assist in going through Commerce in getting $300,000 from the state,” Anthony said. “It’s great to see what’s came of this effort. We’re just happy to see it come to fruition.”
Martin said that he and Anthony had to lobby the State Department of Commerce for the additional funding needed for the construction of the fire station. He pointed out that while the Department is more than happy to provide funding for the BMWs and the Boeings, it is not so quick to make it available for projects like the construction of the Bonham Fire Department.
“We told them that fire stations like this one protect the BMWs,” Martin said, adding that while he and Anthony were able to secure the additional funding needed “it took all of us working together to make this happen.”
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.