In a split decision Tuesday night, the Monticello City Council, meeting in committee, voted to recommend to the full council that the city build a new fire station on the former W.C. Whaley School property on North Main Street. The committee reviewed three options before taking the vote.
Two options would locate the new fire station downtown and one option would locate it on the city-owned W.C. Whaley School property.
The first option calls for the construction of a new station on property immediately south of the town square. It would involve a land swap with Monticello businessman James Gathings.
Gathings offered to trade his property south of the McKiever building, which is located on the town square, for city-owned property on South Hyatt between Jackson and College streets where city vehicles are stored. The South Hyatt Street property contains less than a half-acre, a bus shed and shop with an overhead door. In addition to the land swap, Gathings agreed to pay the city an additional $35,000 for the South Hyatt Street property.
Alderman Al Peer, who subsequently made the motion recommending the W.C. Whaley location, asked where the city would store the city’s garbage trucks and other city vehicles currently stored at the South Hyatt location. There is not enough room to store the vehicles on the city warehouse property, he said.
Moreover, Alderwoman Sherrie Gillespie, who seconded Peer’s motion to recommend the W.C. Whaley property, pointed out that the South Hyatt property is insured for $400,000.
The second option, suggested by Alderman Tim Chase, would locate the new station immediately east of the existing station, utilizing Church Street. The Gathings property could be purchased and utilized for parking which would be lost under his plan.
The third option calls for the construction of the new station on the W.C. Whaley property which was purchased from the Monticello School District in 2002 for that purpose. The city council has twice rejected that proposal.
Last year, the city’s fire station site selection committee recommended the W.C. Whaley location during a committee meeting but reversed that decision in a special called meeting the following day.
Citing potential traffic issues and aesthetics, residents of the North Main Historic District, where the W.C. Whaley property is located, are opposed to the construction of a station on the W.C. Whaley property.
The council, meeting as a committee Tuesday night, voted 4-3 to recommend the W.C. Whaley location at the Monticello City Council meeting next Thursday night. Aldermen Josh McKiever, Sherrie Gillespie, Raymond Hubbard and Al Peer voted to recommend the W.C. Whaley location, while Aldermen Carolyn Brown, Tim Chase and Claudia Hartness voted against it. Alderwoman Beverly Hudson did not attend the committee meeting.
Mayor Allen Maxwell said he has no preference on location, he just wants to get started. “We’ve been dealing with this issue for a decade,” he said, “we need to move forward and get the fire station built.”
A new station is expected to cost between $700,000 and $800,000. The city currently has $450,000 budgeted for the station.