Wednesday, August 4, 2021

114 West Elm Street
Graham, NC 27253
Ph: 336.228.7851

Graham city council authorizes land purchase for new fire substation

Graham’s city council moved forward Tuesday night with an authorization to buy an acre-and-a-half acre of land between Moore Street and Rogers Road for a new fire station; it would be the city’s second station.

The parcels are three adjacent lots along Moore Street and a vacant lot on Rogers Road (1138 Rogers Road) that backs to one of the Moore Street lots.

The council voted 3-2 to buy the property for the seller’s asking price of $225,000. An appraisal done for the city put the value of the property at $146,000.

Council member Jennifer Talley was outspoken that $225,000 was too much to pay for the small slice of land.  She was joined in the final vote by councilman Ricky Hall.  Mayor Jerry Peterman, mayor pro tem Chip Turner, and council member Melody Wiggins voted for the purchase.

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Talley also said the site chosen would result in the station being “hemmed in all around” on Moore Street.

This lot at 1138 Rogers Road would serve as the entrance to the fire station that would occupy what is now three lots facing Moore Street.

There are 3 vacant lots along Moore Street that connect to one on Rogers Road, all four of which are now being purchased by the city of Graham for a new Graham fire substation.

In terms of the asking price, which Cole said the owners wouldn’t budge on, he reported to the council that the real estate agent used by the city had said the price was “in line” with other properties in the area.  The South Main Street corridor, it was noted, has high land prices. The Moore Street site is a block off of South Main. The real estate agent used by the city, Gary Renigar, also assessed in a written summary to the city that “the sellers are pretty entrenched and I understand why,” explaining that they do not want to undermine the listing price of other acreage the same owner has for sale in the same area.

In the course of discussion in open session Tuesday night, the council discussed other properties that had been looked at since the council met in closed session in April to discuss the possibility of buying the four parcels along Moore Street and Rogers Road and authorized looking at other options.

The council had been scheduled to go into closed session to instruct its agents on a land purchase, but as the council meeting stretched toward five hours, mayor Jerry Peterman started the discussion in open session, initially making a motion to purchase the property previously discussed for $225,000.

Council members questioned the fire chief about some of the alternative properties that had been identified by real estate agent Gary Renigar.  Fire chief Tommy Cole said that none of the other sites was as good as the first one he had brought to the council’s attention last month.

Graham fire chief Tommy Cole

Pressed by Talley about the possibility of building on the southern side of the city, but more to the east – at either the city’s wastewater plant, regional park, or another location – Cole said that on the southwestern side of the city “the density is now,” making it a higher priority.  Cole had recommended two fire substations, in both the southeastern and southwestern quadrants of the city, during a budget presentation to the council on March 4.

Even though the Moore Street/Rogers Road site is smaller than usual for accommodating most fire substations, Cole said that the drive-through style planned for the new site is better than some larger sites which had other significant issues, including soil, drainage, and other topography problems.

Interim city manager Aaron Holland acknowledged that the proposed lot for the fire station was the “bare minimum size” for building a fire station, emphasizing that by “coming in the back side from Rogers Road” the site was acceptable.

Both the mayor and fire chief have described the possibility of a “drive through” station with two entrances. Such a style would allow fire trucks to enter from one direction, such as along Rogers Road, pull into a bay of the station, and then ultimately exit along Moore Street, as opposed to having to “back into the bays” from Moore Street, for instance.

At the current fire station at Graham’s city hall, for instance, fire trucks frequently have to pull out into West Pine Street, temporarily blocking traffic, and then back into a bay.

Similarly, some of the other potential sites were deemed to be insufficiently wide to allow the turnaround maneuverability space that would be needed to accommodate fire trucks backing into a bay.

The fire chief recommended satellite stations that would be about the size of Elon’s relatively new fire station, located on Powerline Road. Each would cost about $2.5

The Elon fire station on on Powerline Road is what Graham’s fire chief Tommy Cole has in mind as the size for a substation in Graham.million to build, he told the council on March 4 when presenting his budget requests. Approximately $6.5 million was included in the proposed departmental budget request, to include land purchases, architectural fees, etc.

“We’re two years out,” he said, from being able to be in a new satellite fire station, he told the council at the time.

Among other sites identified by Renigar, together with their pluses and minuses, according to his report to the city, are:

  • 3.66 acres at West Moore Street and Hanford Road owned by Zaib Amjad Bhatti, the widow of Dr. Mohammad Bhatti, the late physician. The site slopes down at the back, but “there is plenty of buildable land in the front and side,” Renigar wrote. Renigar suggested a potential city offer of $150,000 (approx. $40,985 per acre) to see if that would get accepted.”
  • 10.05 acres, also at West Moore Street and Hanford Road owned by Debra Boone. However, city manager Aaron Holland and Cole said that the owner will only sell the entire 10 acres, not divide out a smaller portion that the city might want. She did not give a price, Renigar reported, but says it is available if the city wants to make an offer.”
  • 4.76 acres near the intersection of Monroe Holt and Hanford roads; the site has a water line easement on one side, and sewer lines would need to be run to the station and “possibly a sewer lift station,” as well. It is on the market for $110,000. The fire chief told the council that the location would be on the western fringe of the city limits, reducing its useful range, since much of its radius would be within the city limits of Burlington.
  • Two other Moore Street properties: one, of 2.95 acres owned by Mildred Huey, is “deemed to be low lying and problematic due to guardrails and elevation of the road in that area.”
  • The second Moore Street site, 3.82 acres owned by Rickey Minor, but has similar difficulties.
  • A smaller lot of 1.48 acres on Moore Street beside the South Graham Medical Center (and generally across the street from the one selected by the council). “A drainage area on the right property lines makes fitting the station and enough entrance to make it functional.”

Holland told the council that there is money in the current budget that had been designated for selecting a suitable site for the new fire station.  Money for construction, he added, would be in the city’s next budget.

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