During the September 16 City Council meeting, the City Council voted unanimously to approve the purchase of 1.63 acres of land at 3510 Harden Road. The land would be used for construction of a new fire station, one that would replace Fire Station 14. The City issued a press release stating that “The site on Harden Road will better accommodate future fire services needs in this area of Raleigh.”
Residents aren’t so sure. During Tuesday’s Public Works committee meeting, residents of the neighborhoods near the location where the fire station will be built argued their case that the fire station needs to be built somewhere else.
Tom West said that most of the residents had just found out about the new fire station location just before the October 7 City Council meeting, when Councilor Gaylord referred the issue to the Public Works committee in response to concerns from the nearby neighborhood.
“We have three main concerns,” West said.
The noise of the fire engines would be intrusive for the neighborhood of 170 homes that is just a block away from the new fire station location. Of particular concern was the use of sirens during the early morning hours. Residents noted that trash pickup didn’t operate during the early morning hours because of the noise those trucks would cause.
Safety was also an issue that was brought up by many of the residents who spoke, some of which directed their questions to Fire Chief John McGrath, who, after giving the committee a brief update at the beginning, was located in the audience. Across from the new fire station location is a Montessori school, with students in grades K-5.
McGrath assured residents he was familiar with several fire stations located near schools and said he was willing to talk to the Montessori school staff if there was anything that differentiated this school from the others he was familiar with.
The final concern that most residents seemed to agree on was traffic. According to multiple residents, traffic along Harden Road at that particular intersection makes it difficult to turn onto that road, prompting many to wonder if this would force the fire engines to go through the neighborhood instead.
McGrath emphasized that the routes the fire engines would take would be either from Harden Road to Blue Ridge Road or Nancy Ann Drive to Lake Boone Trail. “We’re not going to go into the neighborhood unless there’s an emergency in that neighborhood.”
McGrath also explained to residents that the Fire Department had searched repeatedly for another piece of property that would allow them to hold their current fire engines plus an additional vehicle called a “ladder,” which is used for rescue operations, forcible entry, and ventilation. The need for a new fire station is due to the fact that the current station cannot fit a “ladder.”
Some of the residents, upon hearing the specific properties the Fire Department had tried to purchase, even urged the committee to influence a deal between the parties that didn’t want to sell their properties and the Fire Department who had wanted to buy said properties.
Because the design phase for the new fire station will take at least six months, Councilor Odom made a motion to hold this item in committee to give residents an opportunity to meet with McGrath outside the Council Chambers, as well as to elicit input from Councilor Maiorano, who was absent and excused from the meeting, and Councilor Gaylord, who represents District E where the new fire station is to be built.