COLUMBIA — In Fire Station No. 7, between the photos of firefighters and above the cushy chairs and piles of books on tables, cracks are visible in the walls and ceiling. As Training Capt. Rick Douglas looks around, he points out more cracks in the walls.
“That corner, that corner,” he said. “You just start looking around, and they start appearing.”
The cost of repairing the cracks is just one of the reasons the fire station is being moved from 3601 S. Providence Road. The Columbia Fire Department also hopes response times will improve at the fire station’s new location a half mile away at Green Meadows Road and Green Meadows Circle.
The city acquired the first part of the land to build the station from developer Don Stohldrier through eminent domain proceedings in January 2006. Stohldrier sold the rest of the land to the city this summer.
Battalion Chief Steven Sapp said the location was chosen partly because it will cut down on the overlap between fire stations No. 7 and No. 8.
“Remember math class when you draw circles that overlap?” he said. “Our desire is to have the slightest little bit of overlap.”
Sapp also said the new location will help improve response times because it will be easier to get in and out of the station. The goal is to respond to 80 percent of all calls in less than 4½ minutes. Now, 50 percent of calls are answered that quickly, he said.
The firm Peckham and Wright Architects designed the new station. The firm has designed other emergency service buildings in Columbia, including fire station No. 8, which the new station will resemble.
While the new station won’t have earthen berms, which caused many of old Fire Station No. 7’s problems and were eventually removed, it will follow Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards, making the building more environmentally sustainable.
Sapp said the new station will have drive-through bays, where equipment is stored, which will make the station safer because the trucks can drive through to the road and will not have to back up.
Still, near Fire Station No. 7’s new location, residents aren’t sure they’re happy about the move, Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser said.
“There were not a lot of happy neighbors in the area (at first),” she said. “I don’t think a lot of them were overly excited about the fire station.”
Residents were initially concerned about fire trucks speeding to calls on the neighborhood roads and the noise of the sirens, but residents have grown less resistant to the idea, she said.
Future neighbors of the fire station have another chance to voice their opinion at a neighborhood meeting at 7 p.m. July 31 at Rockbridge Christian Church, 301 W. Green Meadows Road.
The project manager will present a 3-D model of the station, and representatives from the Columbia Fire Department will be available to answer questions.
Another public hearing about the fire station will be held at the City Council’s next meeting at 7 p.m. Aug. 6 at the Daniel Boone Building, 701 E. Broadway.
Nauser said she thinks the station will become the pride of the neighborhood.
“I know I used to take my kids up to the fire stations,” she said. “They used to like to look at the fire trucks and the ladders — they used to go out there and honk the horns. I’m really looking forward to it.”
The station will be paid for through the city’s quarter-cent capital improvements sales tax.