The volunteer department is currently housed in the gymnasium of the old Cordova High School, which has been closed since 2008. The Walker County Board of Education accepted a bid to demolish the structure last week.
“Previous reports were that they were going to save the gym, the portion that we’re in. Now we’re being told that they’re not,” fire chief Dean Harbison told the Cordova City Council Tuesday night.
Harbison said he does not know how long the department will have the use of the school because his only notification thus far has been the newspaper account of the meeting.
“We don’t know the date that they’re shooting for, and we don’t know how long we have to be out of the building. So we’re currently looking for other means to place our equipment and our trucks,” Harbison said.
Council member Ed Earp said he had been contacted by a member of the school board the day after the meeting and passed the information he received along to Mayor Drew Gilbert.
“The reason that decision was made was due to the amount of money it was going to cost the school board to maintain that gym. I understand their stance because that money needs to stay in the school system for the kids. It hurts us, but we’re going to figure it out,” Earp said.
The Cordova Fire Department was heavily damaged in the April 27, 2011 tornadoes.
Immediately after the storm, the department relocated to an abandoned pharmacy at the center of the devastation downtown. That structure was torn down during the initial debris clean-up.
The fire department’s vehicles remained downtown for several months until Harbison sought the use of the old high school gym to get them out of the elements.
Harbison said the only option currently available to him is to park the fire trucks outside the VFW building and turn an RV into an office space.
“We do have a temporary provision, but long term that’s not going to work too well, especially with winter coming up later this year,” he said.
Council member Bradley Grace asked if the department could return to the facility on Stevens Street that was damaged in the tornadoes.
Harbison said it could be used for storage but the city could not insure it as a fire department in its current condition because it has been totaled.
“It can’t be a habitable building because it’s totaled unless we go through the complete process of rehabilitating it, which would be a lot of cost that the city probably would not want to incur,” Harbison said.
Gilbert recently told members of the city’s Long Term Recovery Committee that a joint fire/police complex is one of the projects the city may seek funding for in the coming months.
In other action from the meeting, the council
• Adopted a resolution establishing a line of credit for an ongoing sewer project.
Last year, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development division approved the city for a $2,098,000 grant and $791,000 loan to upgrade its wastewater treatment plant and replace aging sewer lines.
“This (line of credit) will be refinanced by USDA at the completion of the project at a 2 percent interest rate and will be paid for exclusively by sewer receivables,” Gilbert said.
• Called a special meeting for 8 a.m. Tuesday, May 7 to canvass the results of the wet/dry referendum that is scheduled for next week. Voting will take place Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Cordova City Hall.
• Received an update from police chief Nick Smith. Smith said 30 arrests have been made in the month of April and 12 individuals have been picked up on warrants from NCIC. Also, three officers from the Cordova Police Department attended active shooter training this week.