FLORENCE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – The West Florence Fire Department closed a deal Tuesday on a property once owned by a large welding company in Florence.
The property, owned by ESAB, was purchased for $25,000, just a quarter of its original price of $100,000, according to Florence County Councilman Willard Dorriety. The county council has $1 million in the bank to pay for renovating and expanding the building. The purchased property is located right next to the current station that was sold to the fire department.
ESAB announced in 2015 that it would move jobs out of Florence to a location in New Hampshire.
The fire department's current building on Pine Needles Road has been there since 1973, and Dorriety said they have outgrown their current space. With the new property purchase, the department will have meeting rooms and sleeping space. Their goal is to hire more firefighters in the future. The WFFD responded to just 200 calls when it started out. In 2016, firefighters responded to 1,383 calls.
"We've been trying to secure this land for a couple years now and we've been hot and heavy on it since October and finally today is the day that it can be filed with the clerk of court and we will be able to call it our own," said Dustin Falls, director of the West Florence Fire District Board.
Dorriety is in charge of District 9. In order to make the renovations, the support of the taxpayers was necessary since they voted on it.
"We're just glad we can move forward with the penny sales tax, because we want to get all these projects taken care of as judiciously as we can, and I'm just happy this is one more we can begin," he said.
By obtaining this property, Falls said the department will have more room to grow and provide firefighters with a place to stay in the event of inclement weather. Additionally, it will lead to increased staffing and space for larger training sessions.
The WFFD hopes to break ground on the new project in June. They already have signed a contract with an architect, Dorriety said. Now, they just need construction bids.