CANTON — Though talk of a potential fire station in the Laurel Canyon area of Canton has increased in recent weeks, Canton officials now say the land set aside for the construction has a problem that could stall the project or force them to relocate it.
Following a failed $6 million bond referendum to construct three new Canton fire stations in March, the City Council voted unanimously to have City Manager Scott Wood research the cost of a station at Laurel Canyon, the site of one of the stations proposed in the fire bond referendum.
But Wood said Monday that 50,000 cubic yards of dirt sitting on the site could present a large and costly problem for the city. He is set to discuss the issue with the City Council at its meeting today.
The potential home of the fire station sits on Highway 140 near the entrance of the Laurel Canyon subdivision.
Wood said it would be a good site for the proposed fire station, if it weren’t for the dirt.
“In terms of logistics, it is a good site,” Wood said. “But it cannot be built upon … until the dirt is moved. You could not build a fire station on it. You couldn’t build anything on it.”
Quotes indicate the cost to relocate the mass of dirt would be between $250,000 and $300,000, Wood said.
Wood said the city is actively pursuing offering the dirt to anyone who wants it.
“We’d love to give it away,” he said.
Previously, Wood said the city hoped to move the dirt to another lot nearby, but the owner of the lot has not responded to queries.
Now Canton may have to foot the bill, which Wood said would be a considerable portion of the potential costs of building the station itself.
Previous estimates for construction have been about $1.1 million, he said.
Councilman Hooky Huffman agreed Monday the dirt poses a problem and said the city may consider moving the proposed fire station. Canton was given the land by the Laurel Canyon developer.
“It’s our piece of property,” Huffman said. “We could sell it and take the money and put (the station) somewhere else.”
The new location, Huffman said, could be the same as one of the other stations proposed in the failed bond referendum, The Bluffs area.
“We were going try to build pretty much the same type of station. That’s kind of my thinking,” he said.
Huffman did, however, disagree with Wood’s estimate on the cost of building the station and said he’d seen a quote which put the cost at $800,000.
This quote is a “fair estimate,” Huffman said, and not “something we just pulled out of the sky.”
Councilman Glen Cummins, though, said the quote was not accurate.
“That $800,000 was a guess,” he said. “It wasn’t really a good estimate.”
Huffman said the quote was from a qualified contractor and presented to the city in a “factual” manner in a letter to Canton Fire Chief Dean Floyd.
Floyd was away on training Wednesday and could not be reached for comment.
The dirt issue with the proposed site of the new fire station comes after months of debate within Canton government on how best to outfit the growing city of Canton with more fire stations.
Many, like Cummins, have suggested a viable option to expanding Canton’s two-station fire department would be a merger of city fire services with those of Cherokee County.
Cummins said that the newly evaluated problem with the Laurel Canyon site is yet another reason for the city to wait to make any moves on fire services until it’s fully determined if a merger with the county is possible.
“We haven’t even decided the option yet of how were gonna do fire services,” he said. “My opinion is the citizens told us when they voted the referendum down, they wanted us to go back to the drawing board. … To me, (it’s) great to know about the dirt. Let it sit for a while.”
Huffman said waiting likely isn’t the best option.
“We could do nothing, which I don’t like that idea either,” he said.