City and county officials, as well as representatives from the Cherokee Fire and Emergency Services came together Tuesday afternoon, breaking ground on a piece of property along Ga. Highway 140 north of downtown Canton that will soon become the location for the fire department’s new Station No. 9.
“This is a big day for us,” fire chief Tim Prather said as he welcomed everyone to the ceremony. “It’s been a challenging process. We’ve been working for years to find property to build a new station and it was long overdue. This is going to be a huge improvement.”
Cherokee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Harry Johnston and Canton Mayor Gene Hobgood offered up some remarks about the day as well.
“It’s a great day,” Johnston said. “This is a testament to persistence.
“This represents the success of over 10 years of effort. This is the end of a long, and now successful, journey,” he added after the ceremony.
Hobgood added, “It is indeed a great day. I appreciate the cooperation between the city and the county.”
Assistant fire chief Eddie Robinson said that, when the new fire station is finished, the facility will be 11,600 square feet, with three pressurized apparatus bays that will be large enough to accommodate a ladder truck, which officials said was needed at that location. The new station will also be able to easily and comfortably house 12 firefighters, along with having plenty of storage space for their turnout equipment.
When the time came to break ground, Prather was joined on the shovel line by Johnston, Hobgood, county commissioners Raymond Gunnin, Steve West and Benny Carter, Canton City Council members Bill Grant, Jo Ellen Wilson and Sandy McGrew, and James Morris, who served as the last chief of the North Canton Volunteer Fire Department.
The current Station No. 9 was built in the 1970s by the North Canton Volunteer Fire Department and has served well during its lifespan. However, with the county having transitioned away from a predominantly volunteer force, issues such as a lack of living space at the station demonstrated the need for a new facility. The Cherokee County Board of Commissioners, at its May 7 meeting, approved moving forward with the plans to build the new station.
“Like most volunteer stations, it was built inexpensively and didn’t include living quarters necessary for paid firefighters working 24 hour shifts,” Johnston said shortly after the commissioners approved moving forward. “Most of those stations have now been replaced with modern facilities. This is one of the last.”
Despite the fact that space at the current Station No. 9 is limited and the facility cannot accommodate all of the equipment the station may need, Prather wanted to commend the firefighters who operate at Station No. 9, as he said he has never heard them complain about their situation.
Although a great deal of the ceremony revolved around celebrating the next step toward opening the new station, Prather reminded the crowd not to forget Morris and the many other volunteer firefighters who manned Station No. 9 for many years and served the community admirably.
Currently, Prather estimates the new station will be up and running in the spring of 2020, barring any unforeseen setbacks during construction.
“I’m excited for these guys stationed here,” he said. “This is going to have a huge benefit for the city and the county.”