BY DEBBIE PAGE
The two story, 15,000-square-foot addition to the Troutman Fire and Rescue department is under roof and contractors are making progress, according to Chief Wesley Morris.
The wall studs downstairs reveal the skeletons of office spaces, a spacious meeting room with adjoining kitchen area for catering, bathrooms, a decontamination area, and the technology and communications hub.
Upstairs, the facility will have private sleeping quarters for eight personnel, a staff kitchen, a communal dayroom area, and a larger workout space with some new equipment to be added to keep firefighters in top condition.
Morris, who is in his second year as the department’s leader, said the much needed space for the growing department has been over three years in the making, including the financing and design process, permitting, demolishing the old facility, and construction.
Since the new countywide fire tax funding model was just passed by the Iredell County Commissioners, the county will take over the payments for the new facility. Before, the project was funded and financed from the budget of the previous Barringer and Fallstown Fire District tax.
Under the new county fire tax, the current 7.5 cents per $100 assessed property value in the B & F Fire District will increase to 9 cents.
After occupying the old Town Hall location and the more recent truck bay addition for decades after the town’s government moved to its current Eastway Drive location, the department is ready for a larger, updated facility.
“We’ve had some water problems,” said Morris. “We had several leaks that caused problems with using our training room. With this new training room, we are going to have more training, even countywide training to be here. We feel like that’s going to be a real benefit.”
The new training room will seat 80 to 100 people.
“The additional office space is also giving us a lot more room to grow” added Morris. The offices, sleeping areas, and dayroom will also get new furniture to replace well-worn furnishings.
The chief also hopes the department will get updated computers and communications equipment as well.
“Obviously, we’ve got a whole lot more room that’s going to give us more area for growth. We are anticipating that the town is going to grow and that the needs are going to get greater,” said Morris, who said that plans for up to 2,000 more homes are currently on the books to be constructed in Troutman and the surrounding area.
The department’s increasing volume, reaching nearly 2,100 calls in 2019, and the large number of homes coming to the area will place even more demands on the department. Troutman is now third in call volume in the county, surpassed only by the Mooresville and Statesville municipal departments.
Morris estimates his department runs 600 to 800 more calls than the next closest county department in call volume.
Morris said the department’s Board of Directors planned for this growth by including four more sleeping quarters than currently needed to plan for a future additional fire company.
“We will have enough room now to house two truck companies out of here, with the thought process that we would run an engine company like we have now and possibly a ladder company and rescue company from here in the future.”
During the construction process, the department staff is split across facilities and is currently housing the full-time personnel working 24-hour shifts in a rental house behind the Main Street department. Morris and Deputy Chief Jimmy Kestler are currently working out of the Perth Road Station 2.
“It’s a little inconvenient, but we’re hoping to be back here in our new station before too long,” said Morris, who said the construction is expected to be complete sometime in the spring. “Now that they have it closed in, construction is moving along.”
The HVAC and sprinkler systems are currently being installed.
The department, established in 1926, is a full-spectrum fire and rescue with a combination of 14 full- and 13 part-time firefighters and about 30 volunteers. Many of the department’s volunteers are qualified first responders as well as EMT & Fire Fighter II certified.
In addition, the team includes specialists in Vehicle Extrication, Hazardous Material Response, Water Rescue, Confined Space Rescue, Advanced Life Support EMS, Trench Rescue, Vehicle Extrication, and High Level Rescue.
The department operates three fire stations to cover its nearly 60 square district, according to Kestler, with the department’s rescue area reaching across the county from the Catawba county line to the Rowan County border.
The large Main Street Station #1 is the headquarters facility, and the 472 Pineville Road Station #3 is strategically located near East Monbo Road area to provide rapid response in the rural but growing western end of the department’s territory. Station #2 at 1506 Perth Road serves the heavily populated southern end of its district.