The Rutherford County Commission is exploring the option of building five public safety buildings in rural areas of the county, but funding is a concern.
Debate on the buildings took place throughout a two-and-a-half-hour meeting last Thursday.
The county is seeking the federal Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) Grant to pay for construction of two of the buildings, in Rockvale and Kittrell. The commission approved $537,876 to pay for architectural and engineering fees as well as geotechnical and other fees. Kline Swinney Associates is doing the work.
According to commission documents, by paying for those fees now, the design will be ready if the grant is approved; initial funding for fees will be provided from the Governor’s Local Government Support Grant.
The estimated construction cost for the first two buildings is $8,681,700, documents show. The grant would likely cover about 75 percent of that cost.
The buildings would be 10,567 square feet in size and would be hardened against natural disasters. They would have two fire truck bays, an ambulance bay, sleeping quarters, a tornado shelter, tornado sirens, and community features including a pantry and kitchen.
Commissioner Robert Peay said a state study showed Rockvale and Kittrell had the highest fire call volumes in the county, and so needed stations the most.
Other buildings could eventually be constructed in Almaville, Christiana and Walter Hill.
Commissioner Pettus Read, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, advocated for approving the buildings. In applying for the BRIC, grant officials look at the applicant’s total design for “creative” features to provide for an area’s needs, hence a feature like a community pantry and tornado shelter. The county will be obligated to construct the buildings if it wins the grant, he said.
Read made a motion to commit to constructing all five buildings. That would start with the Rockvale and Kittrell buildings being constructed in 18 months, regardless of whether the county receives the BRIC Grant. The estimated cost per building would be $4.34 million.
Commissioner Steve Pearcy said, “I’m all about this,” but because he sits on the Budget, Finance & Investment Committee, he asked where the money would come from if the grant is not approved.
Another commissioner, Joe Gourley, said the types of taxes the county can use to build fire halls is limited and suggested levying a fire tax in the county.
“Some of you may not want to hear that, but that’s the only fair way to pay for that,” Gourley said.
Finance Director Lisa Nolen said that with the way the BRIC Grant is structured, approving construction of the Rockvale and Kittrell buildings before applying for the grant could result in the county not receiving the grant. The county should know after June 30 if it will receive the grant.
Gourley said, “We could be shooting ourselves in the foot.”
The commission debated Read’s motion to approve, and he agreed to send the matter to the Budget Committee for study.
In other business, the commission approved a new interlocal agreement with the City of Murfreesboro for the Rutherford County EMS to continue providing emergency ambulance service inside the city. The Murfreesboro City Council has already approved the memorandum of understanding, according to the commission’s discussion.