ELIZABETHTOWN — Elizabethtown is $2.5 million richer, thanks to a grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation, and the money will be used to help the town’s fire department and rescue squad.
In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, town leaders learned the Rescue Squad Building, which saw extensive flooding, required a decision. FEMA offered $40,000 for the renovation of the building to pre-storm condition, but doing so would require the town, going forward, to carry insurance for a building which the Rescue Squad uses rent-free. Alternatively, the town could demolish the structure, also a $40,000 price tag, and build a new one for around $850,000. The third option presented at retreat was to demolish the facility and not replace it, requiring the Rescue Squad to find alternative housing.
None of the three options sat well with councilmembers in February, and it was suggested the town pursue the Golden LEAF Hurricane Matthew Disaster Relief Program grant.
On Thursday, staff learned the town had been awarded the grant totalling $2,518,950.
“This is huge,” said Mayor Sylvia Campbell at the Town Council meeting Monday night. “It’s going to be a game changer.”
Since the hurricane, the Rescue Squad has been working out the Elizabethtown Fire Department. Finding a permanent home for the Rescue Squad has proven difficult because of the specific needs of the organization and because the fire department is not equipped to accommodate the volunteers, staff, and equipment of two organizations.
The grant money will be used to renovate a building at 300 East Broad St., formerly Jessup Motors. According to a press release, Eugene Anderson is selling the property to the town at less than fair market value.
“l really enjoy seeing new life breathed into old things,” Anderson commented. “And since I’m in the healthcare business, it’s an extra bonus that the purpose of the newly renovated building will be to provide safety and protection to Elizabethtown citizens. I enjoy giving back to the community where I live, and this project will be a nice enhancement to our town. I’m proud to be a part of it.”
Campbell sees the building, located in a high priority section of the town, as ideally located.
“The building is a logical fit for the Rescue Squad and fire department,” she remarked. “When completed, the facility will greatly complement the streetscape projects that the town has completed in recent years and will be a true asset for our community.”
According to Elizabethtown Fire Chief Nick West, sharing space with the Rescue Squad for the better part of a year has opened the doors to new possibilites.
“Over the years as our community’s fire and rescue needs have changed, we began to conduct a risk analysis process to see how we could improve response times to fire and medical related emergency incidents,” he explained. “It only made sense for us to partner with the Elizabethtown Rescue Squad to develop effective response plans and build good community relationships over the long term.
“This new facility will also include extensive training space dedicated to improving and maintaining our Fire and Rescue skills,” he added. “The Fire Department remains a vital component to our community and continues to evolve with the community needs. We are extremely grateful for this opportunity.”
Shelton Lewis, chief of the Elizabethtown Rescue squad, shares West’s enthusiasm.
“The Elizabethtown Rescue Squad is very excited and eager to join together with the Elizabethtown Fire Department as we move forward with the construction of this new facility,” Lewis remarked. “With our facility being damaged and condemned after hurricane Matthew and not having anywhere to house our units, supplies, and personnel, we were excited when the Elizabethtown Fire Department opened their doors to us. We have come together to work as a team and look forward to a continuous team effort for years to come.”
Town Manager Eddie Madden said the project should take two years to complete. Design and engineering is being coordinated by architect Terry Cox in collaboration with Angie Mettlen with W.K. Dickson and Associates. Construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2018.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.