Forest Home to get new firehouse

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 14, 2005

When voters go to the polls in Forest Home in the future, they’ll find a new place to cast their vote.

The Butler County Commission gave its approval at Monday’s monthly meeting of a proposal by the Forest Home Volunteer Fire Department to demolish the existing firehouse and voting precinct and build a new one.

The plan comes about because the fire department needs new facilities and the voting precinct needs to be modernized with restroom facilities.

Under the plan, the members of the fire department would build a new 3,000 square foot building that would not only house the fire trucks, but would have an open area in the same building for community meetings.

The room would also be used on voting days.

When the county is not using the facilities for polls, the fire department would hold regular meetings and also house the fire trucks.

The department asked the commission to continue to pay for the electricity and water.

They also asked the Commission for a $10,000 donation towards the building of the new facility.

Commission Chairman Jesse McWilliams explained that this would be given in the way of in-kind work in demolishing the existing building.

This would equal a 10 percent match and the county would help demolish the building, clean the site and do other prep work.

McWilliams said the department is working on getting two agencies’ aid in writing grants to cover the cost of the new building.

The building will meet safety standards set by the county.

In addition, the new facility’s entrances, exit and restroom would be accessible for the disabled under the American with Disabilities Act.

Estimated cost of the facility is $130,000.

The Commission gave its unanimous approval to the request.

Another item before the Commission was the acknowledgment of a Homeland Security Grant totaling $100,413.80 for purchasing communication equipment to be used throughout the county.

The money would cover the cost of purchasing portable radios for E911, the police departments in Greenville and Georgiana, the volunteer fire departments and also two new towers and the Butler County Sheriff’s Office.

Butler Jail Administrator Al McKee also gave a report on how the jail is holding up.

He said the jail currently houses 50 inmates, but has been averaging 55 inmates.

He said work continues throughout the jail as repairs are needed and he said the need for a new furnace continues to prove itself on chilly nights.

Commissioner Frank Hickman asked McKee if some type of fencing could be erected around the jail that would cut out some of the vulgarity inmates yell at people going by and also stop any possible contraband.

McKee said when inmates are in the yard; they are under guard and can’t talk to people at the fence.

&uot;The problem is when they get back upstairs,&uot; he said.

&uot;They get up there and yell out the windows.&uot;

Hickman asked if they could stop inmates from getting close to the windows and McKee said that would be a total lockdown situation.

Sheriff Diane Harris voiced her concern over some type of fencing being put up citing the inability to see the jail from her office and monitor it from there.

Hickman said he understood that but the inmates’ behavior towards the public was intolerable and that he was just looking to stop it.

McKee also told the Commission that currently 10 inmates are on work release and the fund from their wages totals $17,900.

County Engineer Dennis McCall reported to the Commission that the roads held up remarkably well during the recent heavy rains.

He said approximately 18 inches fell in the county in recent weeks and there was typical road damage, but that was expected.

&uot;For the past years, we really concentrated on our cross drain structures on some roads,&uot; he said.

&uot;We hope to continue to do that and we ask the public to be patient because we are taking road by road.&uot;

Also, McCall told the Commission that Peavy Road is closed to through traffic for at least the next week as repairs are made to a bridge.

In other business, McCall reported that the County is selling five tri-axle dump trucks for a guaranteed sale price of $93,465 per truck.

He then asked the Commission’s approval on purchasing five 2005 tri-axle dump trucks for $1.4 million dollars financed through First Continental Loans.

During Commissioners’ comments, freshman Commissioner Glenn King told those present he has learned an important aspect of his post.

&uot;One of the negative things about holding a Commission seat is when people call on your with a legitimate problem and you have to tell them there are no funds to help,&uot; he said with the other commissioners nodding their agreement.

Commissioner Frank Hickman reported to the Commission on the positive visit by Senator Russ Feingold a few weeks ago.

&uot;I think it was a very positive day and we got a lot of good public recognition,&uot; he said.

&uot;It was a fun day and it never hurts to be friends with a U.S. Senator.&uot;

Commissioner Daniel Robinson noted the fund to build a new jail continually grows, but as always, they want to be sure the money is there to run it properly.

&uot;We want to make sure when we do this, the sheriff and her people can operate it,&uot; he said.

Chairman Jesse McWilliams finished the meeting by saying many things continue to come together for the county after several years of hard work.

He also mentioned the jail situation.

&uot;We very much need a new jail,&uot; he said.

&uot;We need to make sure that we don’t have to go back and say that we need to change this or that we don’t need that.

Mr. McKee has been excellent in that job and we want everyone to know that and that Sheriff Harris and her people are working well with what they have.&uot;