Capital campaign aims to offset cost

The Milton Fire Department is doubling its square footage to meet the needs of a growing population.

The department board and membership recent voted on the expansion rather than new construction.

“We established a committee several years ago and looked at area properties, did a sort of feasibility study,” said department president Johnny Hopkins. The cost “would have been more than twice what we would renovate for.”

The good condition of the building, built in the 40s and renovated in the 80s, and its central location, were factors in the decision. About 70 firefighters and 50 ladies auxiliary members use the building.

Last year, the MFD responded to 1,745 fire and EMS calls within its 100-square-mile territory and in assistance to neighboring fire companies.

The renovated station will include a new engine bay for two pieces of equipment and the reconstruction and enlargement of an existing bay for at least four. Size will grow from 12,422 to 26,132 square feet. The total cost is estimated at $4.6 million.

Other improvements include a larger community room, new bunk rooms and restrooms, laundry, recreation and meal facilities for volunteer firefighters and paid EMS staff, a meeting and training room and new administrative offices.

“Our bunk rooms for EMS staff are just insufficient, makeshift at best,” Hopkins said.

At least two EMS personnel bunk at the fire department nightly.

“We have a few pieces of equipment that sit outside because we didn’t have room in the firehouse,” he said. “We have no private offices for our administrative staff, which is all volunteer. We’ve outgrown our boardroom, we’ve outgrown the kitchen.”

The new design will have an A-frame roof, replacing the flat roof. Modern heating and air-conditioning will be installed.

The department hopes to raise at least $2 million in private donations.

“We’re looking to offset the costs with a capital campaign and not leave a legacy of debt,” Hopkins said. “We have some events coming up,” including a children’s breakfast fundraiser Nov. 9.

The balance will be paid with a $2 million loan from Shore United Bank, $600,000 of earmarked growth funds and the proceeds from sales of donated properties.

Smyrna’s i3a Ide3 Associates has been hired as general contractor. Past clients of i3a include the Odessa and Clayton fire companies.

Construction has already begun.

“We’ve dug in a footer and started demoing some of the parts,” Hopkins said.