PublicationailyNews; Date:Thursday, March 24, 2005 ; Section:Local and State; Page:11

Niceville ponders new fire station

¸ City Council may sell fire department property to fund an upgraded facility.

By JEFF AYRES Daily News Staff Writer

NICEVILLE — After more than 30 years inside a modest metal building between John Sims Parkway and Boggy Bayou, the city’s fire department may soon be packing up and moving to a new fire station.

Niceville City Manager Lannie Corbin said he will ask the Niceville City Council at its scheduled April 12 meeting to give him the go-ahead to start the process of selling the fire station’s property, located at the corner of John Sims and Armstrong Avenue.

Money generated from the sale would go toward constructing a new fire station next to the city’s municipal complex on Partin Drive.

“We need an upgrade,” Corbin said. “We’ve grown and our fire department has grown with it. Since Niceville is growing faster to the east and west, it will be more centrally located” on Partin Drive.

The current fire station has had some cosmetic nips and tucks over the years. Corbin said a wall had to be removed to give fire trucks more room to enter and exit. Its roof had to be repaired after Hurricane Ivan.

Niceville Deputy Fire Chief Tommy Mayville said the building is in good condition. The big advantage he sees in a new firehouse is that it will have more room, including sleeping quarters, for firefighters.

Such amenities don’t exist at the current station, he said.

“It’s always beneficial to have a nicer home,” said Mayville, a 23-year veteran of the fire department. “I guess change is good if it benefits the community.” When he first began working for the department, it consisted of 36 volunteer firefighters. Now, the department is full time, with 16 state-certified firefighters on staff, Mayville said.

While there is plenty of space to store equipment, he said there isn’t much personal space for firefighters, since the volunteers were usually at home or their regular jobs when fires broke out.

“It would take quite a bit of money” to refurbish the current station, Mayville said.

If the council approves the proposal, the city would have to bring in an appraiser to determine its value.

Corbin said the property was appraised in 1999 at about $550,000, adding that amount could have doubled by now since property values in the area generally have risen in recent years.

An architect would have to be called in to provide a design, and an exact cost of constructing the building will need to be determined.

Corbin said at least 5,000 square feet are available at the proposed site, adding the fire department is the last city service not to be based on Partin Drive.

The land where the current firehouse sits has a limited-commercial zoning, meaning developments like small office complexes or retail businesses could be built there, Corbin said.