Danville buying land from Owens for fire station

March 09, 2004|LIZ MAPLES

The city will buy one acre from Tommy Owens for a fire station, land that was not the site originally recommended by the fire chief and that has doubled in price - to $75,000 - during a year-long negotiation with the owner.

Commissioners have met behind closed doors for more than a year to wrangle about buying land for a station on the south end. These discussions about property acquisition are allowed in executive sessions, by law, to prevent potential sellers from inflating the cost of property.

Mayor John W.D. Bowling and commissioners Chester Kavanaugh and Ryan Owens voted for the purchase Monday. Voting against it were commissioners Jamey Gay and Terry Crowley.

There were two choices: Owens' site across the bypass from Applebee's restaurant and behind the Goodwill on Belinda Avenue, a site along the same street as the restaurant.


Bowling said the acre across the bypass is a better choice than the alternate site, behind Goodwill, because Belinda Drive could become crowded on a Friday night with customers from the restaurant. He said the extra cost would be worth it if fire trucks could reach a fire faster and save lives.

In a three-page memo to commissioners last year, Fire Chief Mike Thomas had said neither site was "perfect," but that the Belinda Drive location was "the better of options." He said today the memo was written before Applebee's was open. He was present at the Monday meeting, but did not speak.

Thomas wrote his memo based on discussions with fire department officers and personnel and city officials. He said then that more people thought the Belinda Avenue location was a "little better location" for a fire station. Based on 12 considerations, Thomas reported in the memo that Belinda Avenue was more suitable in six cases, Owens' property better in one case and either site was suitable in the remaining five.

Thomas considered factors such as location, surrounding development, station design and access to the bypass.

Bowling called the newspaper at about 8:30 a.m. today, and said Thomas had changed his mind about the recommendation. Bowling read a quote he said he'd taken from Thomas that said the fire chief never realized that Belinda Avenue was so congested. Bowling said Thomas came to this realization in the last several weeks.

Called by the newspaper for verification, Thomas said that he had seen cars parked on the sides of Belinda Avenue. Asked if he thought the city could post no-parking signs to get rid of the problem, Thomas said that would just shift the problem and cause more work for the police department. Thomas then said he was satisfied they would have a "good station on the Owens land," and that he was "satisfied the city was moving forward on a southend station."

Gay noted the doubling of the price; Bowling said the land was really worth $150,000.

None of the commissioners said how much the Belinda Avenue property that belonged to C.J. May would have cost. But Crowley said that there were other options that were less expensive and just as acceptable.

Gay said that he felt the commissioners needed public input into the decision.

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