Alachua County Fire Rescue (ACFR) officially opened its newest station this morning in the Phoenix Commercial Park on US 441 in the City of Alachua. Although the station has been operating since January 31, this was a chance to celebrate the partnerships that made it possible.
ACFR Chief Harold Theus said the station had been in the works for several years, and he thanked the Alachua City Commission, who all attended the ceremony. He said the station had been on a “master plan shelf” for a number of years, and retired Fire Chief Bill Northcutt was the one who pushed for it to be built. He had originally planned to site the station on Millhopper Road, but pushback from neighbors of that site derailed the original plan.
Alachua County Manager Michele Lieberman said that although the station is currently in a temporary building, the goal is to have a permanent structure built in the next 3 years. The station protects about 1500 homes and thousands of commuters along 441. “Once the bay is erected, homeowners will be eligible for a reduced rate on their homeowners insurance.”
She said that the collaboration between Alachua County and the City of Alachua allowed the station to be built at minimal expense. The temporary building was already owned by the County, and all of the work was done by ACFR, Alachua County Public Works, and City of Alachua staff. The lowest bid they received for the station–without the bay–was $270,382, which didn’t seem acceptable to them for a temporary site. By splitting up the work and doing it themselves, they were able to open the station for $135,800.
District Chief Drew Dabney and his team painted the station, coordinated the new floor installation, and constructed the steps and the ramps. Driver-operators Aaron Coleman and Bryan Gregory coordinated and planted all the landscaping. The small house that is used as a sign for the station was constructed out of metal signs by Brian Green.
County Commissioner “Hutch” Hutchinson told stories about his days as a volunteer firefighter and talked about the profession’s new recognition of the emotional toll of a first responder’s job. “I’m very happy to see the station here; I can’t wait to come out for the ribbon cutting for the new station.”
Alachua City Manager Adam Boukari said that the City of Alachua used to be under contract to Alachua County for fire services, but now residents pay a Fire Assessment to the County. He thanked the Alachua County Commission for honoring their commitment to the City of Alachua to build this second station. He particularly praised Lieberman for being “the best in the business,” for being dedicated to getting this done, and for being determined to do it at minimum expense. “This is a core service… When you say what do you want your government to do… Number one, please protect my family, me, my property. That’s what this does.”
Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper thanked the Alachua City Commission for staying “ever vigilant” and said people should say “thank you” to first responders, every chance they get.