Hope Fire Department, supporters still plugging away on new station

HOPE — The Hope Volunteer Fire Department had expected to be in its new fire station by now but has missed two anticipated dates to have it operational. So it’s back to taking things one day at a time.

“I’m hesitant to set a third date,” said Hartsville Fire Chief Ed Johnson, who is helping a fellow fire department in heading efforts to complete the 9,642-square-foot facility at the corner of South and Aiken streets. “We still have approximately four weeks worth of work that needs to be done.”

Johnson would only say the goal is to move out of the current station at 728 Harrison St. before the arrival of cold weather.

Although the heating system in the new building is about 99 percent complete, Johnson said remaining work includes:

  • Completion of concrete work in front of the station.
  • Putting in lights and related electrical work.
  • Installation of ceiling tiles.
  • Setting up handicap-accessible parking spaces.

When the fire department announced its intention to move on or before Aug. 15, it was depending on a volunteer to complete the concrete work, Johnson said.

However, that person did not show up as expected, he said.

Other volunteers involved with seasonal activities such as the recent Hope Heritage Days festival also got sidetracked, he said.

“When you are dealing with several entities, things don’t always happen they way you expect,” Johnson said. “Volunteers come when their schedule allows.”

With the slowdown in progress, firefighters have been actively raising funds to get some work professionally completed, Hope Fire Chief Randy Wood said.

For example, volunteers organized a Sept. 17 pancake breakfast during the Hope Ride, as well as hosting a fish fry during Heritage Days, Wood said.

They also did fundraising at Saturday’s Corn Maze Beer Fest at Simmons Winery and 450 North Brewing, the chief said.

While sponsoring fundraisers three weekends in a row is a strain on his men, these efforts let residents of Flatrock and Hawcreek townships know the department is still there to serve them, Wood said.

“We’re getting support from the community again, so that’s a big plus for us,” Wood said.

Another big plus is the recent announcement that the department has been awarded a $492,000 grant.

The money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay for a new fire truck that will replace an engine that is more than 20 years old, Wood said.

“This will definitely make us more effective,” said the chief, who credited assistant Hope fire chief Chad Emmitt and town administrative consultant Trina Carter for writing a successful grant application.

But since the truck will have to be custom-made by Emergency One Inc. of Ocala, Florida, the new apparatus will not be delivered to Hope until sometime next year, Wood said.

When groundbreaking was done on what was then estimated to be a $700,000 fire station in late 2012, completion was expected in nine months.

But as the result of cost overruns, a lack of funds, a since-settled lawsuit filed by the building contractor, and tensions between the department and town leaders, the uncompleted building stood empty for more than three years.

Construction resumed only after the lawsuit was resolved last December and a new $72,000 annual contract with the Hope Town Council was approved two months later.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.