By Daniel Silliman
At a few minutes after noon, five shovels bit into loose, tan dirt. Five shovels were raised, and the dirt was tossed into the air in the Monday ground breaking for the county's newest fire station.
The Clayton County Fire Department's Station No. 14 is being built at 4610 South Park Boulevard, in Ellenwood, to provide fire and emergency services to the northeastern quadrant of the county.
Fire Chief Alex Cohilas said he has wanted to build a station there since he took office in 2001.
"This has been a dead spot in our coverage for a long time," Cohilas said. "This is a key area, that has already grown and will continue to grow."
The new station will provide service to the Boulder Crest Road area, all the way to the Henry and DeKalb county lines, the chief said.
Previously, the area was being served by Station No. 2, on Ga. Highway 42, or Station No. 8, on Maddox Road.
Backup engines were being sent to the area from as far away as the Mundy's Mill Road station in Jonesboro, during busy times, the chief said.
With the new station built, "this northeast quadrant will be considerable stronger than it's ever, ever been," Cohilas said.
Clayton County Commissioner Sonna Singleton, who represents the northeast area of the county, praised the new fire station, at the time of the ground breaking, and said it represents an improving community.
"This is one part of my commitment," she said, "to make Clayton County, not only a good place to raise our children, but also a safe place."
The station is being built by McDonald Construction Company, Inc., for a cost of $1.24 million. The construction company donated the land -- valued at more than $150,000 Cohilas said -- almost two years ago.
The land was donated without a promise of receiving the construction contract, Cohilas told the gathered firefighters, developers and county government officials. McDonald Construction was one of nine companies that bid on the construction. Their bid was the lowest, and they promised to complete the station in the shortest amount of time.
Cohilas praised the company for its cooperation with the fire department's needs.
"This represents a tremendous opportunity for government to partner with private enterprise to meet the safety needs of the community," he said.
The station is expected to be completed in the first half of next year. It will be large enough, the chief said, that it should not need to be expanded. It will house an engine company, a ladder-truck company and a medic unit. It will be state-of-the-art, and will house 11 fire fighters per day.
The last new fire station was completed in 2003, and was built on Mundy's Mill Road, in Jonesboro. Cohilas said the South Park Boulevard station will be built to the same design as the 4-year-old station in Jonesboro.