Lee County to vote on fire/EMS bid

LEESBURG -- For eight years, talk about the construction of a new fire/EMS station near the north Lee County community of Smithville has been just that: talk.

That talk could move a short step from reality tonight when the Lee County Commission votes on the recommendation of architect Yielding, Wakeford and McGee to approve a $744,580 bid to build the long-planned facility.

The bid of Peachtree City contractor South-Tree Enterprises was the second-lowest submitted for the project but was deemed "most responsible" by the Albany-based architectural firm.

The facility will be built on land donated to the county by John Haley, reportedly a stipulation made by former landowner Scott Wall before he sold the land to Haley.

"Lee County appreciates the Haley family's donation, which will provide the county with the land to build a new fire/EMS station in Smithville that will serve the citizens in Smithville and a large area of northern Lee County," Lee Commission Chairman Ed Duffy said Monday. "We also appreciate Mr. John Haley for the time that he has taken over the last several months to work with county staff to determine the specific dimensions of the land that was provided.

"This project has been on the drawing board for over eight years, and it is great to see it finally come to fruition."

Duffy said the three-quarters of a million dollars used to finance the project will come solely from special-purpose local-option sales tax funds.

"SPLOST funds will be used to pay for the entire project, which includes an ambulance, a fire engine and the facility," he said.

Smithville/Chokee District Commissioner Dennis Roland said Monday he's pleased for the people in his district that the long-awaited project is nearing reality.

"This project was approved by voters eight years ago, and the money for it has been sitting there for the last three years," he said. "It's taken us a while to get everything ironed out, but it's a good thing for the district.

"This is another example of why SPLOST funding is so important for the county. The funding for this project is coming from everybody in the county and from people outside the county who spend their money at businesses here."

In the original SPLOST referendum approved by county voters, $600,000 was approved for the fire/EMS station.

However, Lee County Administrator Alan Ours said Monday that, allowing for inflation in the years since the referendum's approval, the $744,000 bid is "in the ball park" for expected expenditures.

"This project is a continuation of the priority the commission places on public safety," Ours said. "The Smithville station is part of the original goal to have full-time fire/EMS service throughout the county.

"The project bids are on the agenda for (tonight's) commission meeting, and once the contract agreements are approved, things should mobilize pretty quickly. (South-Tree Enterprises) is planning on a 130-day construction period."

The County Commission's meeting tonight is the only one the board has scheduled for November.

Its next scheduled meeting is Dec. 8.