The Public Works committee met Tuesday to discuss the possible establishment of a new fire station on Harden Road. The committee heard from both the fire chief and the local residents in a 45 minute discussion.
The item had initially been heard by Public Works on October 28, 2014, when residents expressed their concerns over the station being built in their neighborhood. The primary issues for residents were the noise caused by the fire trucks during early morning hours and the possibility of affecting a local school that is currently under construction.
To mitigate those concerns, the Raleigh Fire Department and other city stakeholders met with the Meredith Woods Home Owners Association to present the need for a relocated fire station and to hear and answer residents’ questions. A January meeting between the parties also took place before Tuesday’s Public Works meeting.
Outlined in the Public Works agenda, the benefits of building a fire station on the proposed site were said to be numerous. The city, in its negotiations to secure a viable site, was limited in terms of finding a different site than the one proposed.
Residents were still concerned after the meetings with the RFD.
Tom West, secretary of the HOA, spoke at the meeting on Tuesday, saying, “That’s just not a great location for a fire department.”
He noted that this would mark the first time that houses in an existing neighborhood would be demolished to build a fire station. He said this would be setting a precedent that the city could do this in the future in other neighborhoods.
He asked the committee to look at alternative placement options, including a specific parcel to the west at the intersection of Blue Ridge Road and Lake Boone Trail.
“Why not put the fire station where he should be?” he asked.
Other residents echoed his comments.
“I really understand the things you have said,” Councilor Maiorano said. “There will be some impact here.”
The committee asked Chief McGrath numerous questions relating to the depth of the search for alternative sites and the negotiations that had occurred for the properties that might also be suitable.
The discussion centered on that specific parcel to the west, which was called the “Beech” property. Chief McGrath said that the city had had the land appraised and had made numerous offers, including one above market value.
“But I would hate not to put this on the Beech property because of money,” Councilor Odom said.
Councilor Odom stated that the most important services a city could put out were police, fire, water, and sewer, and given that the city had spent much more money on the Hillsborough Street projects, spending more money on a fire station was not out of the question.
The committee discussed many options on finding an alternative site for the fire station. After deliberation, they decided to have staff explore options for the purchase of the property and to refer the item out of committee.