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Newton board OKs land buy for one fire station, building renovation for another
Fire Engine
Pictured (L-R): Capt. Clint Aaron, Fire Chief Mike Conner, Deputy Chief Darriel Mosley, Deputy Chief Brad Stapp, Battalion Chief Joe Cagle and Shannon Daves, Williams Fire Apparatus. - photo by Special to The Covington News

COVINGTON, Ga. — Newton commissioners have approved two purchases that could lead to property insurance rates dropping for southern and eastern county residents.

Commissioners last week voted to approve the purchase of a five-acre tract for construction of the new county fire station No. 4 southeast of Covington. 

They also voted at their July 21 meeting to approve about $243,000 for the construction phase of the renovation of a former volunteer fire department building to create Fire Station No. 2 in southern Newton County.

The station No. 4 site will be at 465 Big Woods Road in the Starrsville community after commissioners approved spending $65,000 to buy the five-acre tract from the family of Peggy Jean Knox.

The county saw the need for the station after the Insurance Services Office (ISO) revised its fire service rating for the area following the closing of a volunteer fire department station on Dixie Road, said County Commissioner Ronnie Cowan.

He said he anticipated the new station being similar in design to station No. 8 that is under construction on Gum Creek Road in northern Newton County.

County officials broke ground in mid-June on the new station — which will be 11,000 square feet and be funded from a combination of Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax money and a county fire tax.

Renovation of station No. 2 near the intersection of highways 212 and 162 is set for completion later this year.

The former volunteer fire department building will be refurbished with living quarters for firefighters who will staff it 24 hours, seven days a week, said county Fire Chief Mike Conner.

It also should bring down insurance costs for those whose homes and businesses in south Newton now are listed at the lowest ISO rating — 10 — for an area.

The ISO rating can have a significant effect on property insurance rates and is based on such factors as water availability and pressure and a property’s distance from a fire station. 

A decrease in an area’s ISO rating number typically leads to lower insurance rates.

County Commissioner Stan Edwards, whose district includes the affected area, wrote on his Facebook page he had been asking Conner to complete the project since 2017.

“Kudos to he and his staff,” said Edwards, an insurance agent. “This was a need for the area — big time.”

Conner said area residents had relied on firefighters responding from stations miles away on Covington Bypass Road and Ga. Hwy. 36. 

Completion of the new station is expected by Oct. 31, according to county documents, and Conner said that should reduce the area’s ISO rating to 4.

Project manager Jeff Prine told county commissioners that renovation of the building is set to include facilities to “make it habitable” for firefighters, including the addition of bunk rooms, restrooms and showers. 

The total maximum price for all work associated with the renovation, including design, pre-construction and construction, is $348,000, he said.

About 10 firefighters will man the station, which will contain two bays for an engine company, Conner said.

The building served as a station for a volunteer fire department in past decades when volunteers provided fire service and later supplemented the work of the professional department. 

However, after more stringent training requirements were instituted in recent years most volunteers stopped doing firefighting work. 

As officials saw property insurance ratings increase, the county’s professional department then began to push for commissioners to provide funding for upgrade buildings to serve the volunteers’ former service areas.

Conner said the county Fire Services Department has been using the Station No. 2 building for storage because it was not equipped to accommodate firefighters 24 hours a day — though it briefly staffed the building with firefighters while station 14 was under construction on Ga. Hwy. 212, Conner said.

“It’s never really been operated as a (24-hour station),” he said.