Fannin County officials review blueprints for the new fire station under construction, determining where cost can be cut.

By Mark Thomason, Fannin Focus Publisher:

On his first official day in office, Stan Helton, the newly elected commission chairman of Fannin County called for a special meeting to discuss the new fire station being built in Blue Ridge. After opening the meeting Helton declared,”the construction of this fire station is my number one priority, I’m absolutely determined to get this done.” He went on to discuss how he felt it would benefit the county as a whole.

Rick LaRosa, the architect for the project, was on hand to discuss a number of issues with the commission board. Helton called for the meeting after reviewing LaRosa’s last construction cost proposal, which weighed in at nearly $4,000,000. This was nearly 30% higher than the initial $2,500,000 budget that the commission board had discussed as being acceptable. Not only Helton, but both Post Commissioners Earl Johnson and Larry Joe Sosebee were alarmed by this number.

Previous Chairman Bill Simonds, it was determined, had communicated with LaRosa that the increase would not halt construction. Helton along with the post commissioners discussed possible cutbacks on the design to bring the overall cost back down to the $2,500,000 number.

After a round table discussion between the commission board, architect, Fire Chief Larry Thomas, and EMA Director Robert Graham several modifications to the design could be made to stay within the original budget.

The initial plans were drawn for a 25,000 square foot facility, however in meeting budget demands its possible 5,000-7,500 square feet may be eliminated. Discussions of reducing the number of firetruck bays from 5 to 4 also was raised as a cost effective solution for staying within budget.

Throughout the meeting, Helton encouraged public input and even asked the audience on different occasions if they had questions or comments. Before concluding, the board determined that LaRosa would formulate a list of different project reductions that would allow for cost to stay at the $2,500,000 mark or below.

After that list was finalized county personnel would review and approve/disapprove the changes and allow hard construction to actually begin.

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