Residents who live on the southeast side of Columbia near U.S. 63 soon will have a neighborhood fire station.
The Boone County Fire Protection District has bought 2.4 acres and a building from Simon Steel, 5881 S. U.S. 63, for $700,000. The money comes from a 1998 fire district bond issue.
“This is an exceptional opportunity for us,” Assistant Chief Ken Hines said. “This is a great piece of property. This is a great spot to be in.”
Hines said the fire district will save money and time by not having to build a new station. The existing building is about 20,000 square feet, which Hines said is at least four times the size of most county fire stations.
Pat Simon, owner of Simon Steel, said the fire district paid what any other customer would have — and got its money’s worth.
“I think taxpayers’ money got spent real well here,” Simon said. “I think it’s really a gold mine for them.”
The fire district expressed interest in the property about a year ago, Simon said. In recent months, he had told the county it needed to act if it was still interested.
“It was one of the easiest sales I’ve ever had as far as working with people and working out the contract,” Simon said. “They knew exactly what they wanted and needed.”
Simon said he is moving his business back to its former building in Prathersville. He built the building on U.S. 63 in 1999.
Hines said the fire district determined it needed a station in the area before the bond issue was passed in August 1998. However, acquiring land was a challenge. Many landowners in the area want to sell larger chunks of land to developers, rather than two to three acres to the fire district, he said.
The county must renovate the building before the station can open. The second floor contains offices, which Hines said the district will convert into living quarters for volunteer firefighters. The district already has assigned officers and firefighters to the station.
Hines said the district hopes to have firefighters and equipment in the new station by April or May.
“Having a fire station there vastly improves our capability to get aid to people,” Hines said. “We could have bought land a long way away from Highway 63 and built a fire station, but that wouldn’t aid us. We need to be where the calls are.”