Governor Steve Beshear announced Monday a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to construct a new fire station for the Smith Mills Volunteer Fire Department in Henderson County.
The new facility will replace the community's current fire station, which is located in an unsafe, antiquated building that was originally constructed in 1901.
"Response time for firefighters can mean the difference between life and death for the citizens they serve," said Gov. Beshear. "This new fire station in Smith Mills will provide firefighters with the quality facility they need to safely and quickly respond to calls, and effectively serve the community."
The 112-year-old Smith Mills Volunteer Fire Department suffers from a range of safety and structural problems, despite several attempts by local firefighters to upgrade the building. The current facility is covered in mold and asbestos. A leaky basement and roof are causing electrical system problems, mold and rotting floors. The structure is located along a busy intersection between Kentucky Highway 136 and Kentucky Highway 359, making it hazardous for firefighters to leave when dispatched. The volunteer firefighters also have limited access to the facility due to the lack of any available parking.
The department is responsible for serving approximately 475 households in Henderson County, as well as a large number of commercial and industrial businesses such as metal processing facilities, smelter facilities, metal recycling centers, a chemical processing facility and several large grain loading centers located along the river. In addition, the department provides first response services to the CSX Transportation Railroad, which regularly transports hazardous chemicals to and from the Henderson County Riverport. Annually, the department responds to approximately 123 calls in its 100-square-mile service area.
Officials say constructing a new Smith Mills fire station will alleviate many of the current station's safety problems and will allow the department to serve its community more effectively.
Most importantly, officials say the firefighters will not be exposed to hazardous mold and asbestos at the new station.
The new 4,800-square-foot facility will also provide adequate space to house firefighting equipment, including three fire engines, and will include training space for firefighters to develop better firefighting techniques and learn how to use specialized equipment.
The new station will be located at 6027 Highway 136 West in Smith Mills and will allow for easier departures that will improve the department's dispatched response times.
"Improving safety for our volunteer firefighting servants for Smith Mills and Henderson County is one of my priorities," said Sen. Dorsey Ridley. "This new fire station will provide our firefighters with a reliable, more protected environment from which they can respond to calls. Our fire fighters put their lives on the line every time they answer a call for help and it is imperative that we do what we can to make their jobs safer."
"Anything we can do to support our volunteer fire departments will have long-lasting and positive effects on growing communities like Smith Mills," said Rep. David Watkins. "This grant will provide tremendous support for our local firefighters and will reassure they have the quality facility they need."
"Henderson County initially applied for this grant in 2011 knowing it was inevitable that the old station would have to be razed and a new one constructed," said Henderson County Judge Executive Hugh McCormick. "A great deal of work has gone into supporting this application to its conclusion. Sen. Dorsey Ridley, Rep. David Watkins, Magistrate Charles Alexander, Brad Alley with GRADD, and Jim Sullivan with Capital Partners LLC have worked tirelessly to keep this project at the forefront of everyone's mind. We are all very appreciative of the Governor's approval and are excited to get started on this project."
The $500,000 CDBG to construct the new fire station is administered by the Department for Local Government and funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Kentucky's Congressional leaders' continued support of the CDBG program ensures the availability of continued funding in Kentucky and nationally.
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