Fire and county officials, firefighters and community leaders gathered at the future site of the facility on Highway 5 just south of Holly Springs. Construction is expected to be completed in a year.
Chief Tim Prather of the Cherokee Fire and Emergency Services said the facility will provide a much needed place for the department’s firefighters to train. Presently, they have to travel to other locations in the region to receive required training.
“We’ve grown so large now that the trip to the fire academy in Forsyth has started to become an impact, financially,” Prather said.
“With the economy the way that it’s been, we’ve reduced our staffing somewhat. We’re kind of at minimum staffing. Having a training center keeps our training in the county and we can do it all from here. I’m very excited about that.”
The department has about 250 firefighters who will be utilizing the facility, which will be built on the site of the old Pike Nursery.
Cherokee Board of Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens joked that he purchased a red Japanese maple the last time he was at the site.
“I’m delighted to see this site turn into something really important for us,” he said to the sizeable crowd. “This will be a landmark for the county.”
On Sept. 18, commissioners unanimously approved awarding a construction contract to Atlanta-based Cablik Enterprises to build the Fire Training Complex at a total cost of $3.2 million. Pond & Company of Norcross is the project’s engineer.
County officials hope the facility will lower the county’s Insurance Service Office, or ISO, rating from a class 5/9 to a class 4. The ISO system is used to rate how well fire departments serve their area and to calculate homeowners’ insurance costs.
The training complex will house a burn building, an administrative building with classrooms, a multi-floor training tower, outdoor classroom, a driving course and rescue pad.
Prather credited Assistant Fire Chief Eddie Robinson with spearheading the project from the beginning.
Misti Martin, president of the Cherokee Office of Economic Development, said a survey of businesses and industries completed by her office last year revealed that fire protection and safety were rated “as high as you possibly can get.”
Other speakers at the event included county Commissioner Jim Hubbard, Cherokee Chamber of Commerce President Pam Carnes, Holly Springs City Manager Rob Logan, Cablik Enterprises President Alan Cablik, and Pond and Company CEO Al Pond.