FORT MILL — With its newly hired chief in attendance, the Fort Mill Fire Department got some helpful news following a unanimous vote Monday by Fort Mill Town Council.
Council authorized almost $200,000, plus closing costs, to buy property for the department to put a second station. Negotiations on the property are ongoing. It’s located within the Doby’s Bridge Road corridor, near Doby’s Bridge Park.
Firefighters say the move is strategic and needed to keep up with current and planned residential growth on the southern stretch of town property.
Jeff Hooper will begin as department chief on Oct. 28. He attended Monday’s meeting to introduce himself to town leaders. Hooper said he isn’t as familiar yet with fire needs given so recent a decision, but that the move by Council showed a commitment to fire protection.
“It’s just an exciting time, I think, to be in Fort Mill,” he said. “And I’m looking forward to being part of it.”
Department leaders say the new station is needed, particularly in the spot where they’re looking. Massey and The Forest at Fort Mill are building out in the area. Waterside on the Catawba will add 1,300 more homes there, and Riverchase is gearing up, too.
A recent presentation by the Fort Mill School District on proposed elementary school attendance lines showed the new Doby’s Bridge Elementary opening to 396 students next fall. It then projected 3,480 coming residences just for that school, or 32 percent of the growth throughout the district that includes not only Fort Mill, but Tega Cay and large unincorporated areas.
Town leaders not only see activity along Doby’s Bridge, but they’re anticipating more. With the completion of the Fort Mill Southern Bypass, it’s expected that the southern part of town will be a main driver of growth. By several indicators, incoming growth already is exceeding what it was in Fort Mill prior to the 2008 recession.
Fire protection is being planned for to meet those growth needs. In addition to work toward a new station, the Fort Mill department should hire six new firefighters by Jan. 1. York County Council recently approved $300,000 from existing fire district tax money for the Riverview Fire Department to create a new substation along Hwy. 160 West. The Flint Hill Fire Department is looking for grant money to hire two new positions there, transitioning to a more fully staffed department.
Currently, the Fort Mill department has a station on Tom Hall Street. It includes 12 full-time and six part-time firefighters, plus volunteers.