Fire Stations in South Carolina to Receive Upgrades

Lexington County Council approved about $7 million in firehouse improvements and new office space Tuesday, but delayed a decision on new county libraries.

The county will pay for the projects with money from the reserve fund. When first proposed, council would have spent a total of $9 million on facilities, but delayed a decision for months while finalizing the budget that goes into effect Friday.

Council decided to remove libraries from the proposal because they were concerned about spending all of the reserve fund about $1.7 of the roughly $11 million fund was used to balance the budget and the location of the new libraries.

Some members, like Johnny Jeffcoat of Chapin, argued that facilities such as the Chapin library need to expand now.

Those people up there are just choking because they dont have enough room, Jeffcoat said. Id really like to see us bring this back up immediately.

But chairman Todd Cullum and Councilman Bobby Keisler thought council should reconsider the sites recommended by the library board. Keisler supported a library in South Congaree, while Cullum noted Swansea Mayor Ray Spires no longer wanted a new library until after the town had developed a plan for its downtown.

South Congaree has been left out in the past, Keisler said. They have asked for a library over and over again.

Councilman Joe Owens raised concerns during debate about purchasing an office building near the corner of Gibson Road and South Lake Drive. The building would house state Department of Social Services offices and likely the county communications center.

Though purchasing the $3.5 million building would save the county the price of renting office space, Owens was concerned about the cost.

I think were putting something at risk here, he said of spending reserve money.

Councilman Smokey Davis argued for the purchase, noting the state would reimburse the county for use of the building, earning about $384,000 between now and 2009.

Rent paid by the county, he said, continued to rise. The majority of council agreed and approved the purchase.

Council was unanimous in support of new firehouses on Corley Mill and Cedar Grove roads, as well as relocating the Lake Murray and Chapin stations and renovations elsewhere. Those stations, they said, will provide better service, as well as lower fire insurance rates for communities near the new stations.

Though council approved funding for the projects, all contracts still must be bid. If costs are higher than expected, county officials said they might have to reconsider some construction.

Distributed by the Associated Press