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IDA discusses fire department for Exit 212

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Managing Editor

The Chilton County Industrial Development Authority discussed establishing a fire department to respond to the Alabama Farm Center and surrounding commercial area at Interstate 65, Exit 212 during an Aug. 10 meeting.

Such a department would likely operate similarly to existing rural volunteer fire departments. However, it would not receive the tax funding volunteer fire stations usually receive.

Butch Billingsley of the Chilton County Volunteer Firefighters Association suggested that this stipulation be a part of the new department’s bylaws.

How this department would be funded would also need to be established.

IDA Chair Monica Cooper said their grant writer is researching grants for fire/safety infrastructure and equipment.

“We are pursuing the grant route first. This is just strictly letting you know where we are headed with the fire protection,” Cooper said to the board and audience, which included several Chilton County Commissioners.

Cooper said there would likely also be an ambulance to do medical transports at the department.

“I have talked with some of the rural fire departments about covering events when you have a fire there,” Billingsley said. “I think all of them are on board.”

The closest existing fire department to the site is Gap of the Mountain, which would respond to the area until another department is established. Then, Gap would likely serve as a backup through mutual aid.

Billingsley said the rural fire departments all have medical rescue equipment in addition to their fire vehicles and equipment, and there are at least 10 paramedics. However, they do not have the means to transport someone to the hospital.

Also during the meeting, Alabama Mineral Springs, who received assistance from the IDA in finding resources for the project, presented an update on the company’s progress and plans for road improvements to the site.

The company will be bottling the mineral water from the spring and distributing it through Johnson Brothers Distributing.

Marty Malizio of Alabama Mineral Springs said the company’s building plan has been approved by the FDA.

Some in the area have expressed concerns about traffic. Malizio and Diana Windsor of Alabama Mineral Springs said public tours of the facility would not be allowed, but the hope was to preserve the history of the site by establishing a museum somewhere else.

“There will not be any public traffic coming to the site,” Malizio said.

Malizio said the intersection of Highway 187 and Highway 51 will be widened and a merge lane added to Highway 51. Agreements have already been made with the property owner and Alabama Mineral Springs for the land the company would need to widen the road. An architectural drawing for the project is being completed, and a cost estimate is expected in the near future. Signs will be placed designating the route for tractor trailers to take.

There are several local investors funding the project.