The Southport Fire Department celebrated on Saturday the opening of a temporary substation on Long Beach Road. 

Just hours before the ceremony, the board of aldermen unanimously approved a recommendation from the city’s emergency services committee to move forward with plans to build a permanent substation in that area. Fire chief Charles Drew presented the recommendation for a design-build station, located on a portion of 88 acres slated for the proposed Southport Crossing shopping center at the intersection of Long Beach Road and N.C. 211.

The property owner has donated an acre of the parcel to the city for the purpose of building a permanent fire/EMS and police substation that would serve that area.

Drew said the committee discussed construction options at its meeting in January.

“This substation is not a wish—it’s not on a wish-list,” he said. “It’s not just a want. It’s a need that was identified through our ISO (now North Carolina Response Rating System) inspection last February.”

Drew said the permanent station would better serve residents in the city’s fire district and continue to help lower insurance premiums for residents and business owners in that area.

“Just for the record, I’d like it stated that our entire fire district pays a fire fee,” he continued. “It’s not just the City of Southport tax that support this fire station, but our entire district pays for fire services. We do receive a lot of revenue outside of the city limits that helps support fire services being provided throughout our district.”

Drew explained that there were two avenues for constructing a permanent fire station. The city could use an architectural design or a build-design construction.

“These two avenues were discussed with the emergency services committee, and we did consult with the city attorney,” Drew said. “The consensus of that committee is to start a build-design construction project.”

He then asked for a board motion to move forward to get started with designing the building.

“Anything we do will have to come back to the board for approval, and we still would have to put out for bids,” he said. “But if I could get guidance from the board today, we could at least move forward with the design for the building.”

Alderman Mary Ellen Poole, who chairs the emergency services committee, made the motion to move forward with design-build construction, and aldermen Jim Powell backed the motion. 

Before proceeding with the vote, Powell did ask for clarification that the station would also house EMS and police. Drew indicated it would.

Mayor Jerry Dove said he had spoken with the owner of the property who is donating the land for the substation.

“He is really excited about that—getting a nice building out there,” Dove said. 

The board voted unanimously to move forward with the design-build construction for a new fire, EMS and police substation. 

City manager Kerry McDuffie said per North Carolina general statutes, the city must solicit qualifications from three different contractors before proceeding with the project. 

McDuffie said right now, Drew will work on coming up with a set of specifications to be used when the city sends out its request for qualifications. 

Temporary location

Though establishing a permanent substation will take some time, the city has taken steps to begin serving that area of its fire district.

Aldermen attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the temporary fire substation in a former car wash that had remained vacant for several years. In October, the board voted to move forward with leasing the property and establishing a fire and EMS presence in the Long Beach Road area.

The department remodeled the building using funds it had set aside in its budget, and the facility is now fully operational.

Mayor pro-tem Todd Coring, who also serves as the city’s assistant fire chief, thanked those who attended the ribbon-cutting.

“This is a ceremonial day for us,” Coring said. “We’re excited to have the substation up and operational.”

The department started staffing the building on January 30, and Coring said they’ve already responded to several calls. 

“We’ve run the engine right much,” Coring said. “We’ve got a lot of call volume out here.”

Coring, Drew, Dove and McDuffie were joined by members of the fire department as they uncoupled the ceremonial fire hose. Drew said it was the same hose used when they opened the new Southport Fire Headquarters several years ago.

Following the “ribbon-cutting”, the department hosted a reception so the public could see inside of the facility.