City Council initiates Andalusia Fire Department renovation project

Published 11:00 am Saturday, August 19, 2023

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The Andalusia City Council this week approved to begin the process of renovating the city’s fire department building that will lead to a new look outside and improvements inside.

Plans for the building on Church Street in the downtown area include a new facade as well as updates to the living quarters, which was described as substandard and out of date by officials.

The resolution passed on Tuesday allows the city to enter into an agreement with Concordia Architecture to provide renderings needed to start the project. The cost for the architectural renderings is $22,750 and is expected to take about four weeks.

Once renderings are completed, the project will enter the bid phase for the work to be done.

Concordia has worked with the city on multiple downtown projects, including providing plans for the new Heritage Park.

The fire department project will be paid for through funds from a 2022 $11 million bond issue.

Mayor Earl Johnson said the new facade will be done to closely resemble the appearance of the city hall building and provide more space for the firefighters.

“Updating the building will be a huge improvement for our fire department and our city,” Johnson said. “Our folks are jammed in there together right now and this will provide them adequate space.”

At any given time, there are approximately 6 to 7 firefighters boarding in the fire department facility.

Officers with the police department will also be receiving an update with the purchase of new body cameras.

Police Chief Paul Hudson said the current body cameras were purchased in 2015 and have been updated since, but that the software has been problematic, even losing some video footage.

The chief recommended the purchase of an Axon camera system, which will be paid over a five-year period. The first year is the most expensive due to set-up costs. The first year cost is $66,300, which includes unlimited video storage. In the second year, the cost will drop to $33,300. The plan also includes updates to the newest body cameras available after two and a half years.

The mayor said providing proper cameras is important to officers and the community.

“I think these cameras are important for two reasons. First, it keeps track of what is happening to our police officers and, second, it keeps track of what our officers do. It works both ways and is a valuable resource for our police department. Our officers are directed to have the camera on when they leave the department. We want the cameras on all the time,” Johnson said.

Other items discussed by the council included:

  • approved abatements for 10 nuisance properties
  • approved a transportation plan as required by the state’s Rebuild Alabama, which provides funds to cities through a gas tax. The plan passed by the city stated that no projects are scheduled at this time that would utilize those funds, but officials said once a project is determined, the plan will be changed.
  • approved the surplus of police hand radios that are not being used so they can be sold.

The next council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 5, 6 p.m., at city hall, with a work session preceding at 5:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend.