Officials: New fire station needed to deal with growth

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Staff reports 

As new neighborhoods develop and commercial construction continues along Robert Smalls Parkway and adjoining areas, the town of Port Royal and city of Beaufort are considering establishing a new fire station on Robert Smalls Parkway to better serve the growing needs of both municipalities. 

The station is planned to open by January 2018 near Robert Smalls Parkway and Castle Rock Road, according to a press release.

If approved, the municipalities will lease the property and the new fire station, which would be delivered as a turn-key project ready for fire trucks, equipment and firefighters, said Beaufort-Port Royal Fire Chief Reece Bertholf. 

“We’ll turn on the lights, roll in the equipment and be ready to roll back out if there’s an emergency,” Bertholf said. “The property is perfectly located for us to provide exceptional emergency protection to Port Royal and Beaufort businesses and residents.” 

The Port Royal Town Council and the Beaufort City Council heard formal presentations about the new fire station and service agreements on April 19 during a
joint meeting. Both councils were scheduled to consider and vote on an expanded intergovernmental agreement and the lease during a special meeting on April 24.

The Beaufort/Port Royal Fire Department is proposing a mutual aid agreement with the Burton Fire District that will have the fire station closest to any emergency be the first responder, regardless of governmental boundaries. 

“As firefighters and first responders, we are here to save lives and property, and that’s the purpose of the mutual aid agreement,” Bertholf said. 

The goal is to provide better service to area residents and businesses while at the same time providing better allocation of resources to other parts of the community, Port Royal Town Manager Van Willis said. 

“This plan has been under consideration for several years and the commercial and residential growth happening now on S.C. 170 and Parris Island Gateway make this the ideal time to open the new fire station,” Willis said. 

As part of the feasibility study, Port Royal and Beaufort councils engaged the services of the International City/County Managers Association’s Center for Public Safety Management to review the plan and proposed service areas and response times. Their analysts confirmed the new fire station would be ideally located to provide full fire and emergency service to Port Royal and Beaufort residents and businesses – now and into the future.

In the coming months, a large car dealership, a fast food restaurant and other businesses are expected to open on Robert Smalls Parkway/S.C.170 within the Beaufort city limits. 

In the near future, a large campus is scheduled to open for Bridges Preparatory School in the Port Royal section of Robert Smalls Parkway, along with residential developments. 

Extending the Beaufort-Port Royal Fire Department’s reach with the new fire station isn’t expected to affect taxes in Beaufort or Port Royal, Willis said. The properties affected already pay city or town taxes. 

A possible benefit of the new fire station to affected property owners is that the ISO fire rating, related to fire insurance premiums, may improve. 

The councils will consider a 30-year lease for the property and fire station, including all equipment that’s not vehicles or personnel equipment.