Community Development Block Grants for fire station discussed

Published 12:42 am Wednesday, April 19, 2017


NATCHEZ — A little more than a dozen Natchez firefighters and a handful of city officials attended a public hearing Tuesday to hear plans for a nearly $500,000 renovation to the Vaughn Drive fire station in north Natchez.

The public hearing is required for the city to submit an application for Community Development Block Grant funding to make an approximately $477,000 renovation to Fire Station No. 3, built in 1977.

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Local architect Johnny Waycaster gave an overview of the proposed project, which includes improvements to the building and bathroom facilities and resolving fire code violations, water intrusion and other problems with the station.

Other work would also include painting the entire building and adding a 950 square-foot addition that will mainly serve as a sleeping area and restroom.

At the hearing, NFD Capt. Randy Anders, who is stationed at the NFD location on John R. Junkin Drive, asked if the grant was structured so the funding could be used to make improvements at other fire stations in addition to Station No. 3.

Community Development Director James Johnston said the grant would allow only for the renovation of the Vaughn Drive station.

Ward 2 Alderman Billie Joe Frazier asked how long the renovation, if funded, would last and asked Fire Chief Aaron Wesley if plans had been made in case the station needs to be vacated during the renovation.

Johnston said the funding announcement would be made in October or November. If approved the city would then hire an architect after it receives environmental clearance. The city likely would plan to start the project sometime next spring.Waycaster said the renovation would take approximately 150 days. With planning, he said, much of the work could be done to minimize the impact of the fire station’s operations so the station could stay open.

Wesley said the fire department has space at Station No. 1 to house firefighters there in the event Station No. 3 needs to close during some of the repairs.

NFD Operations Manager Conner Burns expressed appreciation for the city attempting to obtain funding for repairs at the station.

“These conditions are poor, and I appreciate the city stepping up,” he said.

Johnston recently presented the project to the Natchez Board of Aldermen, with the city putting up a match of approximately half the project cost and $20,000 for in-kind services.

The Natchez Board of Aldermen still needs to finalize exactly how much funding it wants to commit for the match, Johnston said.

The deadline to submit the application is May 8.

Anyone wishing to submit written public comments to be included with the grant application can do so by mailing letters or dropping them off at City Hall, located at 124 S. Pearl St., before the close of business on April 25.