The path to a bigger fire station in Clayton has been nearly 12 years in the making, but it's finally happening as Clayton Fire Company approved a $1.5 million expansion in a Feb. 18 special meeting.

Building Committee Chairman Kevin Wilson said the expansion will add 7,500 square feet and will be two floors. There will also be some renovations done at the same time, but they aren't included in the cost of the project. The expansion will address several needs of the fire company including space.

A long time coming

Talks of a new building or an expansion have been around for years. Wilson said in 2001, the fire company was approached about purchasing the Masten property across the street.

Wilson said a holding company was formed because the fire company shouldn't really purchase property. Then since the fire department wasn't in a position to build a new facility, the property was rented to several businesses.

After that, a Building Committee was created to look into the future.

"When we first started, we initially talked about doing nothing at all, adding on, or building a new one," Wilson said.

Talks began again in 2008 and 2009, but the $5 million price tag for a new building was too much for the fire company. A few more years went by and the Building Committee began looking at alternatives. The department met with Fearn Clendaniel Architects to put together an expansion plan, which was what the committee presented to fire company members at the Feb. 18 meeting.

Addressing a need

The 7,500-square foot expansion includes an additional engine room, expanded locker space, a training/meeting room, a fitness area, additional office space, and more. As part of the expansion, Wilson said they will tear the lobby off and incorporate the lobby into the new addition.

The extra space is a big reason for the expansion, Wilson said. Right now the department is very limited on space in the engine room, which is a safety concern.

Plus with a bigger facility, Wilson said Clayton Fire Company will be able to better serve the community. They'll be able to hold four or five meetings a night. If a storm knocks out the town's operations, Wilson said the mayor and staff could come to the fire department and work there.

Wilson said the goal for the group was for the project to not affect operations. Basically, they wanted to make sure that doing the expansion wouldn't hurt the department's ability to replace apparatus, purchase updated equipment or get the firefighters the best gear available.

The expansion will be paid for out of Clayton Fire Company's normal operating budget, but they will try to get grants and raise money.

"We have some money set aside," Wilson said. "We did a very good job at financial management."

What's next?

Now the Building Committee is working on finalizing their plans; the fire company still needs to approve the final design. Current discussions also include a timeline for the project.

Wilson said they are unsure when the project will start, but a September date has been discussed. He said it'd be nice to get the lobby torn off and for construction to start before the cold weather hits.

The committee plans on meeting with local and state officials, holding a workshop with the firefighters regarding the design, and meeting with the public.

Now that the committee can move forward, Wilson said he's relieved, especially since two weeks prior to the approval the group didn't think they were ready to present the plan or if it was the right thing to do.

"We met again and it just seemed to fall into place, and I think the committee as a whole finally felt, 'yes, this is the right decision to make,'" Wilson said. "Overall as a company, this is the right thing to do moving forward."

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