Construction of a new Greenwood fire station near the Worthsville Road interstate exit is more than five years away, but the discussion about where it should be built has started.
The empty fields to the east of Interstate 65 will one day be thriving with commercial development such as retail shops, business offices and restaurants, the city hopes. To the west of the exit are a school and subdivisions.
Long before much of the expected development on the east side of the interchange takes place, Greenwood Fire Chief James Sipes will have to determine what the best location is for the city’s fifth fire station. Sipes will have to choose a location that provides fast, equal response times to the area the new fire station will cover. He’ll want to determine the best location before all the land in the area is developed, he said.
In the next 10 years, Greenwood will need to build two new fire stations, each with a price tag of about $4 million, which includes buying land and construction. The first of the two will be built on the southwest side of the city near Honey Creek and Stones Crossing roads. That firehouse will be the new location of Station 93, which is currently located on Stop 18 Road west of U.S. 31. All of the equipment and staff will just be transferred to the new location, Sipes said.
But at the fifth fire station, the price tag could increase because the fire department would have to also buy new equipment such as fire trucks and firefighting gear as well as staff the new firehouse, Sipes said. As many as 12 additional firefighters would need to be hired, Sipes said. The project is slated for about 10 years from now.
“Staffing will be a bigger question than where we will put that station,” Sipes said. “We could have the property, equipment and fire trucks and engines given to us and we would still be struggling with staffing.”
With each of the new stations, Sipes will have to determine locations that provide the fastest response to an emergency, and that includes looking at the surrounding roads to determine the quickest routes and easiest access to businesses and subdivisions. That task is easier done on the southwest side, where station 93 will be relocated, because much of the area is made up of subdivisions already built or currently under construction.
When deciding where a new firehouse will go near the interchange, Sipes is keeping station 93’s current location in mind, using it as an example of what not to do, he said.
When the station was built in the late ’80s, the majority of the land south of Stop 18 Road was mainly corn fields and vacant land. Due to development in the past 30 years, the station needs to be farther south and west of the current location, Sipes said.
“We have to be visionaries. This is a 25- to 30-year decision,” Sipes said. “We are trying to make sure we make this decision with the long-term growth of the city in mind.”
A group of Greenwood residents want to help with the decision.
The Concerned Citizens of Southeast Greenwood have begun lobbying Sipes and city officials to have the station built across from the Copperfield South and Central Park subdivision located off of Worthsville and Sheek roads.
Twenty-nine acres off of Sheek Road sit across from those neighborhoods, and that’s where residents want the city’s fifth fire station built. Last fall, a developer proposed apartments, but push back from the Concerned Citizens of Southeast Greenwood group ultimately led to the developer withdrawing a rezoning request.
Now, Concerned Citizens president Randy Goodin is working to find out if residents would be opposed to the idea of a fire station on that property and coming up with ways to make the site one that the city considers.
Neighbors like the idea of a fire station at the location because it would lessen the likelihood of apartments, or another development from going in and it adds a sense of safety and security knowing a fire station is nearby, they said.
Goodin is eyeing the location for the same reasons, he said. Goodin went to council member Bruce Armstrong, who represents that area of Greenwood, and they both went to Sipes with the idea, Goodin said.
“Whatever I need to do to get this approved, I’ll do it,” Goodin said. “They have to complete their project to relocate station 93 before they could even consider where the station on the east side will go, but we are going to try.”
Sipes is taking the property into consideration and will include it as a possible location, he said. The station would occupy about five of the 29 acres, which may eliminate the site as a possible location, he said.
And the location may be too close to the area already covered by the fire department headquarters located on Main Street and the most recently built fire house located on Graham Road just south of County Line Road, Sipes said. Building the fire station along Sheek Road would be close to the area where more coverage is needed, but it might not be far enough to the southeast for the balanced response times the fire department wants throughout the city, Sipes said.
“I’m excited people want the firehouse close to them. But my gut instinct, based on response criteria, that location might be too close to current stations,” Sipes said. “And we won’t know where to put that station until station 93 is relocated to the southwest side of Greenwood in order to determine the best balance that gives us the best coverage and response times.”