A quarter million dollar price tag on a building addition to the Larrabee Fire Department was an unpleasant shock for members of the Larrabee Fire Department three years ago, but members of the Larrabee Fire Association, which oversees revenue and expenditures for the Larrabee Fire District, did not give up on the idea of an addition.
They realized that they would have to scale back the project and reject a USDA grant for $50,000 that came with requirements that could not be met. With some scaling back from the original plans and much volunteer work, the addition is nearly complete at an expenditure of $74,000. Another $12,000 is expected to be spent.
Larrabee Fire Association board members and long-time firefighters Ray Mullins and Brian Freed are spearheading this effort. They were at the Jan. 15th meeting of the Cherokee County Board of Supervisors, seeking assistance from the rural betterment fund for the project. They made a request for $30,000, which would allow the association to be debt free after conclusion of the project.
Mullins explained that the present fire station in Larrabee was completed in 1990, without any debt, but there hasn't been sufficient space for training or for community events. In 2005, the plan for an addition was announced along with announcement of a USDA grant for $50,000, these announcements getting prominent coverage in the Chronicle Times. When bids came in for the project, with designs that met USDA specifications, it was time to rethink the whole project.
Mullins noted that the people of the fire district have always been supportive of the Larrabee Fire Department and they put forth the extra effort for the building project. He said that he and Freed were the conservative voices on the board, needing to sell others on the idea of moderately scaling back but once that idea was accepted, the people of the district came through. Mullins, who served for many years as Larrabee's fire chief, credited the current fire chief, Jeff Friedrichsen, with his leadership.
Freed noted that when they were rethinking the project, the question asked was "How do we meet the needs of the community?" The fire department was in need of office space and training space. Freed explained that satisfying those needs would help to satisfy another long-term need, that of attracting enough young volunteers to keep the fire department going.
The new space at the fire department will also provide space to hold community events.
The rural betterment fund is derived from 1/4 of the county's portion of the one-cent local option sales tax for municipal and county government. The other 3/4 of the county's portion goes toward property tax relief.
The county has granted similar requests for use of the fund over the last several months, coming close to depleting the fund. The supervisors voted to contribute $15,000 toward the Larrabee Fire Department project, half of the amount requested. Half of the $15,000 will come from the budget of the present fiscal year and half from the budget of the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1.