Tax increase could fund new Spartanburg fire dept. headquarters

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SPARTANBURG, SC (WSPA) – Spartanburg City leaders may need to raise taxes to get a new fire department headquarters. 

City leaders said the current facility is too outdated. 

“There’s no way to make this part of the building ADA accessible,” said Spartanburg Fire Chief Dr. Marion Blackwell, as he showed us around the a facilities. 

“There’s no ventilation to get the odor out so we use the fan to keep it moving and also helps keep the unit dry to cut down on mold and mildew,” he said of the men’s bathroom. 

The current location was built in 1961. 

“When this building was built in the 60s no one anticipated female firefighters so even the bathroom’s set up for a male – it’s got a, got a urinal in it,” said Blackwell, adding that there’s one female dorm compared to the 9 beds for men. “We should be programing our people based on their skills and abilities to do the job, not based on our facilities.”

According to the city, a new option for the Fire Department will be needed soon, since both the City Police Department and City administrative staff will be leaving the current City Hall within the next few years as part of a joint facilities agreement with Spartanburg County.  

City officials said that in 2017, Spartanburg County voters passed a 1 percent sales tax increase to fund a new County Courthouse and new facilities for Spartanburg County Administration, City Hall, and the law enforcement agencies for both County and City.

However, city officials said, fire department facilities were not included in the referendum, leaving the City to fund a new fire department facility on its own. 

Read more about one percent sales tax here

“If you overlay those [fire stations] with ISO one ratings with the accreditation that we’ve achieved, we’re in the top 1 tenth of 1 percent of fire departments in the country,” Story said. “We’re all troubled by the fact that that organization is operating out of an obsolete and substandard environment.”

Story says there are two options for a new headquarters location — build a new facility from scratch for about $12.5 million or make the old Integral Solutions building the new headquarters for about $9 million. 

“We’ve assembled some cash in advance of this project that we’ll contribute to it but the net result of that would be an adjustment for the city’s millage rate,” said Story. 

He said the city would have to raise taxes, where the average property owner would pay an extra 12-dollars a year. 

“I’m a taxpayer too and I understand when you hear tax increase you go “ugh!” especially if it’s schools and things like that but sometimes it’s just necessary if we want to maintain the level of service we have,” said Chief Blackwell. 

City leaders will discuss this further at a public hearing May 28th before the first reading of the budget June 10th. 

City staff said they project a 4 percent growth in overall revenue for the 2019-2020 budget, with 7 percent growth in property taxes. 

“On a whole we’re in a strong and strengthening position and we’re pleased with the progress we’re making, driven significantly by our downtown growth and the activity there,” Story said. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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