York Council OKs change in fire station plan

jmarks@lakewyliepilot.comNovember 13, 2012 

— Upgrades at Bethel Volunteer Fire Department’s oldest station are a step closer to arriving following a zoning move last week by York County Council.

Council approved a fire station use for property just beside the existing station at S.C. 557 and Oakridge Road. Submitted plans show a 1,400-square-foot facility with space for five trucks just beside what’s there already, jutting up against land owned by the Clover School District.

Site specifics – whether sidewalks are required, curb and gutter – haven’t been determined.

“We need to get in design and look at the area,” said Stephen Allen, county planner.

The project will be funded by local fire tax district money, something voters within Bethel’s boundaries approved in 2009. Michael Laws, chief of the Bethel department, said one estimate put groundbreaking for the new facility during springtime.

“I would love for that to happen, but I’m not going to hold my breath,” he said.

Since getting its special fire tax district, Bethel has made several equipment and truck upgrades. The department also added its first four paid positions to supplement daytime hours when volunteerism is low. Laws would like to see additional paid hours with fire tax district money.

“That is my absolute goal moving forward,” he said.

The department also addressed Council in March saying something significant was needed at the 5600 Hwy. 557 site. Some trucks barely fit in the decades-old building, members said, and plans for future trucks wouldn’t fit.

The zoning approval last week wasn’t the only Council decision to impact Bethel firefighters. The county finalized a reallocation of bond money initially meant for substations on the western side of the county. Instead, it now can be used for a planned fire training facility and maintenance shop in York.

“This is just for the original approved amount of $3.1 million, so no more than that,” said Chairman Britt Blackwell.

Volunteer units from throughout the county, including Bethel, approved of the new training center plan. David Jennings, chief of the Flint Hill Fire Department, addressed Council several times on behalf of volunteer units saying that the money would best be spent on training and service.

“Building substations has always been the responsibility of the community or municipality where they’re located,” Jennings said.

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