Ala. city opens state-of-the-art 'mother of all fire stations'
The facility is "certainly the finest fire station we have in the city of Mobile," Mayor Sandy Stimpson said
By Lawrence Specker
Alabama Media Group
MOBILE, Ala. — Mobile officials gathered Thursday morning in the Crichton area to cut the ribbon on the "mother of all fire stations in the area," as one of them described it.
That was Councilman Fred Richardson, who had obvious reason to be delighted that the city's newest public safety facility was in his District 1. But Mayor Sandy Stimpson, Public Safety Director James Barber and Mobile Fire-Rescue Chief Mark Sealy said it was a big step forward for the city as a whole and a sign of things to come.
Sealy said the four-bay, 12,000-square foot facility allowed the department to put more assets closer to I-65, a key to improving their ability to go wherever needed. Those assets include a ladder truck formerly stationed on Lafayette Street, and what had been the sole unit stationed at the Ashland Station on Old Shell Road.
Barber described the collection of units assembled at the station as an "all-hazard response team."
The facility is "certainly the finest fire station we have in the city of Mobile," said Stimpson. He added that "We will continue our quest of becoming the safest city in America. This is part of that."
Stimpson restated his support for Sealy's goal of attaining an elite ISO 1 rating. The rating system may be obscure to the average citizen, Stimpson said, but "you will have better service."
Sealy said the new station helps, as does a wave of other work such as thousands of business inspections. By having records of those buildings' features, he said, firefighters will be better prepared to tackle future emergencies.
The station replaces the closed, obsolete Gus Rehm station farther west on Moffett Road. Its location and design were the source of some political wrangling in early 2016: Rather than rebuilding on the Gus Rehm site, the city zeroed in on a piece of property owned by the Mobile County Public School System. In April 2016 a deal was approved in which the school system sold the 5-acre parcel to a third-party developer, which turned around and sold a portion of it, about two acres, to the city for $190,000.
Since then, a new Popeye's restaurant and a Dollar Tree have opened on the Spring Hill Avenue side of the property. Richardson mentioned them as proof that the station had helped spur economic development in the area. He also mentioned other new businesses nearby, including a brand-new CEFCO gas station and a Publix-anchored shopping center.
"They are not coming into an area where they don't feel safe," he said.
Richardson credited Stimpson and others with the "foresight" to find the ideal location for the station. He said Mobile wasn't the safest city in the country yet, "but we're safer than we were, I can tell you that."
Stimpson said near-term plans call for tearing down and rebuilding two other fire stations that are of about the same vintage as the defunct Gus Rehm station: The Springhill Station on Museum Drive and the Toulminville Fire Station on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. Stimpson said officials hope to complete both those projects by sometime in 2019.
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