published Thursday, June 5th, 2014

Chattanooga Fire Hall in East Lake late to open

The new Chattanooga Fire Department No. 9 Fire Hall
The new Chattanooga Fire Department No. 9 Fire Hall
Photo by Doug Strickland.

The new $1.5 million Chattanooga Fire Hall in East Lake sits empty after fire officials found incomplete electrical wiring and drainage problem that delayed the move-in date.

Firefighters for Fire Hall No. 9 are temporarily bunking at the Alton Park station six miles away. The old fire hall, built in 1929, was closed two weeks ago to begin moving equipment to the new facility, touted last year as state of the art.

The city hired Cherokee Construction, which completed work in mid-March. After the standard round of multiple inspections City Inspector Gary Hilbert said there were problems with stormwater drainage. He said officials could get a temporary permit to move in if that's what they wanted to do.

But Fire Chief Lamar Flint said the company of firefighters won't move in until the contractor completes a checklist of minor fixes, such as building a better drainage system for stormwater that flows off the roof.

"We won't accept it until everything is done," Flint said. "The taxpayers paid for that station. They're going to get what they paid for."

Flint didn't have an anticipated move-in date, but officials met with the contractors Wednesday.

Cherokee Construction officials didn't return calls seeking comment Wednesday.

Station 9 firefighters have been active in their coverage area that runs from Missionary Ridge to the Georgia state line, checking pumps, and staying close to cut down on response times, Flint said. Officials weren't aware of any delays in how quickly firefighters responded to an emergency.

Eleven months ago, Flint, along with Mayor Andy Berke and Councilman Chris Anderson, stood at the then-vacant site on Eighth Avenue to announce that East Lake residents would get a new station after more than eight decades. Officials estimated it would take six months to complete.

Fire department spokesman Bruce Garner said Chattanooga's frosty winter weather -- 48 rain or snow days and a few holidays -- held up construction. Besides drainage and electrical issues, Garner said it also took extra time to ensure the alarm system that 911 dispatchers use to alert firefighters of an emergency was fully operational.

Even with the multiple setbacks, he said, the project hasn't gone over budget. But officials had to dip into the $136,000 contingency fund allocated to the project.

Anderson, whose district includes the new fire hall, said that when he asked about the delays he was told the station could be open by next week.

"I'm satisfied with the answers I got," he said. "I don't want a minor delay to negate the fact that this is a major accomplishment."

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at jlukachick@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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