RINGGOLD, Ga. — The Catoosa County Commission has approved a contract to build out a fire station in the Graysville community.
The commission unanimously voted to accept a bid from Chazler Construction to refurbish Fire Station 3, located on the northern end of the county. The move came with a caveat, though: The contract with Chazler Construction cannot jump beyond $725,000. The contractor told the county last year it could do the project for $718,000.
The commissioners also will send some questions to the company about the overall price. They are asking what the cost will be to decrease the size of the awning outside the building and to keep some of the insulation inside the walls. They believe those moves will decrease the cost.
If Chazler Construction agrees to keep the cost below the limit, Commission Chairman Steve Henry can sign the contract outside of a public meeting, kick-starting the project.
"We don't want to wait until everyone's busy," Henry said. "... It sounds like they're ready to go."
Chazler Construction, a Chattanooga-based company, also built the county's fire stations in Lakeview and the Keith community.
"We have a good track record with them," Commissioner Jim Cutler said.
Chazler Construction outbid Helton Construction and Pointe General Contractors, which said they could do the work for $754,000 and $757,000, respectively. Chazler Construction said the project will take six months.
The nine firefighters who man the station have slept in a mobile unit for the last four years, after Chief Randy Camp said they found mold inside. The building used to hold a body repair shop for wreckers, Henry said, and some county administrators feared lingering diesel fumes could harm the workers. Commissioner Jeff Long said administrators feared the fumes had gone into the insulation, causing health concerns.
The county paid about $40,000 to test the site, Commission Ray Johnson said. The county believes the cause of the problem was actually a faulty gas heater, Camp said. The county replaced the heaters but kept the firefighters outside as the commission debated bigger changes to fire service in the area.
Commissioners thought about building a new station. But Commissioner Ray Johnson said cost estimates came back at $1.8 million, more money than he and other elected officials wanted to spend. Camp also said the current fire station, at 1705 U.S. Route 41, is in a good location for the northern end of the county. It's near important secondary roads, like Graysville and Wooten roads.
Property appraiser records show the county bought the building for $300,000 in 2002, but Camp said it was not adequate for the firefighters' needs. For starters, the building didn't segregate men's and women's bathrooms, locker rooms or living quarters. The bunks were also in a cramped loft.
The living area also was not separate from the firetruck bay, as required by county code. Camp said that is important. Last year, the bay at Fire Station 6 off Three Notch Road caught fire, but the team members there were protected as they got ready to beat back the flames.
Camp hopes construction begins on Fire Station 3 by March.
Asked why a decision took four years, Johnson said several changes took place over that time. Former County Manager Mike Helton left in 2015 to work in law enforcement, leaving the commission with an interim manager for a couple of months. In 2016, Commission Chairman Keith Greene lost his re-election to Henry and Fire Chief Chuck Nichols retired.
"[The firefighters] had a trailer to live in," Johnson said. "It took a while. I don't know if it took too long or not. This is the first major project I've done."
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.