fire station 2

The bay of Elizabeth City Fire Department Station 2 is seen Monday, Feb. 22, packed with fire station vehicles, the fire department’s water rescue boat, firefighting gear.

An outside consultant recommended Monday that Elizabeth City Fire Station 2 be relocated as a first step in a long-term plan to enhance overall fire protection in the city.

Greg Grayson of N.C. Fire Chief Consulting also recommended that the city’s long-term fire protection plans include building a third fire station in the western part of the city and eventually moving Fire Station 1 closer to or at Elizabeth City State University.

City Council took no action following Grayson’s presentation.

No cost estimates were presented to City Council Monday but city Fire Chief Chris Carver said Tuesday that a new fire station would probably cost between $4 million and $5 million.

Carver requested the $16,000 fire station location study at council’s retreat and City Council later approved the request.

Station II was built in 1997 as a temporary station after a former station on Elizabeth Street was condemned. Station II houses a fire engine, a reserve engine, a tanker, a fire boat and a support vehicle. It was built to house four firefighters but currently there are nine at the station.

Carver has said the station lacks needed living and training space and the building must be evacuated during hurricanes because it is not rated to withstand high winds. There also is no room for expansion at the Harney Street station.

Grayson, a retired Greensboro fire chief, recommended that Station 2 be relocated to an area near North Hughes Boulevard and North Road Street. An alternative location for Station 2 would be near Hughes Boulevard and Wilson Street.

Grayson said if the city adds a third fire station it should be near Halstead Boulevard Extended and Thunder Road. Sentara Healthcare is building a $158 million hospital at that site that will replace the current Sentara Albemarle Medical Center on North Road Street.

“At the appropriate time, adding a Station 3 on the westside would be an additional station and resource for additional coverage,” Grayson said.

Moving Station 1 from its current location at 902 Halstead Boulevard could be done in collaboration with ECSU, Grayson said. He told council that the city of Fayetteville and Fayetteville State University jointly built a fire station on campus.

“The University of North Carolina System does have precedent working with municipalities collaboratively in partnership to have property and facilities,” Grayson said. “We look at that ideal location (for a fire station) being at that university.’’

Grayson said it takes two years to build a fire station and recommended that the city start looking for land for any new stations. He noted Sentara’s new hospital will attract development to the area which could make a land purchase more expensive in the future.

“We do a lot of work in areas that are growing quickly and those cities always say, ‘The sooner we can secure that property the better off we are,’” Grayson said.

Adding a third fire station would also mean the city would have to hire an additional 15 firefighters. A starting certified firefighter in the city currently makes around $38,000 annually, not including benefits.

But Grayson said a new station could be staffed with three or four firefighters at a time over several years and that state and federal grants could cover some of the costs.

“I opened several new stations as a chief and it doesn’t happen on a flip of a switch,” Grayson said. “You may add three before the station is built and three the next year. It could be spread out over several years.”