After a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday afternoon, Gadsden firefighters moved into Station 7 and spent their first night at the new station next to Banks Park, according to Fire Chief Wil Reed.
The new station will improve service not only for the immediate area, but for the entire city. According to Reed, the location will improve response time for nearby Walnut Park Elementary School and Gadsden City High School.
Kerry Payne, the city’s director of human resources, said on behalf of Gadsden Mayor Sherman Guyton that the $1.7 million project was completed with American Rescue Funds. He found that the project had taken longer than the contractor had requested due to supply chain issues sourcing materials.
Former Fire Chief Stephen Carroll was there to tour the new station. Reed said he has begun construction of the new facility.
Allen Hawkins, who served as fire chief before Carroll, was also there — but he was there throughout the construction process.
Hawkins’ construction company was the general contractor for the construction of the 6,000 square meter building. He said he was happy to be part of the project.
More newsRainbow City gives police staff a raise; Shipping assignment contracts with Etowah 911
Hawkins said his tenure with the fire department gave him insight into the needs of the new station. “I know what’s going in there,” he joked.
Tom McElrath was architect for the project.
Reed said nine firefighters will mann the station, three per shift.
The Chief thanked Guyton and the City Council for starting the project and Gadsden/Etowah Emergency Management Agency Director Deborah Gaither and her staff for helping provide state-of-the-art communications at the new station and to Gadsden’s other fire stations.
The new station replaces the old Station 7, which was built in the 1950s behind the steel mill lot at the Coroner’s of Van Dell Boulevard and Hickory Street.
Council members Cynthia Toles, Deverick Williams, Kent Back and Jason Wilson, along with Mayor-elect Craig Ford, toured the new station after a ribbon cutting.
“This station will continue to serve the citizens long after I’m gone,” Reed said.
Fire chaplain Ramey Waters asked for blessings on the station and those who work there. “We pray that our equipment will always work and our courage will never fail,” he said.
Then the firefighters observed the firefighting tradition. Reed explained that back when firefighters were responding to calls with horse-drawn fire engines, they would return from a firefight, unharness the horses and put them in their stalls, and the firefighters would then wheel the fire engine back into its bay so that it would be ready for the next call .
Gadsden firefighters gathered in front of the station’s engine and wheeled it into the station’s bay, ready to help residents when the next community emergency hits.