FLORENCE — Fire Chief Charlie Cochran is trying to convince the mayor and City Council that adding another engine company at the Cox Creek Parkway station would be good for business.
"By adding a company there, it would enhance fire fighting in that area and the entire city of Florence," he said.
Cochran said two things are driving his request for another engine company and three additional firefighters: Retail and multi-family residential growth, and the possibility of lowering the city's Insurance Services Organization rating.
Wal-Mart is expected to start construction within two months on a store on Cloverdale Road, just north of busy Cox Creek Parkway. The store probably will attract other retail development nearby in the coming decade.
ISO, an agency that represents most of the nation's insurance companies, performs reviews for cities of fire fighting and other infrastructure to help establish insurance rates. The agency provides recommendations for improvements in their reports.
Florence presently has a 4 rating from ISO, which is generally considered good. While there is no guarantee, Cochran said adding an engine company and the firefighters to staff it could lead to a lower rating. If that occurred, he said, businesses and industries could see their insurance rates lowered.
Cochran brought his proposal to the City Council's Public Safety Committee last week, and will present it to the Finance Committee soon.
Council President Dick Jordan, who chairs the Finance Committee, said money will determine how much can be done.
"We need to weigh the cost of adding a truck and men against the savings we would see," he said.
Cochran said a new fire engine would cost about $425,000-$450,000.
He said the cost of three firefighters with salaries and benefits is still being calculated.
Mayor Mickey Haddock said he has talked to Cochran about the proposal, but he wants to study the ISO rate structures to find out how much difference to homeowners a rate drop would make. He also said financing the additions is an issue.
"The Finance Committee would have to look at that very closely to see if the money is there," he said. "I think it would be a challenge to find the money. A truck is expensive, and the salaries for three men is a large sum of unbudgeted revenue. I'm not sure at this time if our revenue exceeds what we projected."
Councilman Blake Edwards, a member of the Public Safety Committee, said he likes the idea of expanding fire protection, but wants to know how it would be funded. His district includes the area where the new Wal-Mart will be built.
"If that area grows as we anticipate it will, it would be a good thing to add another engine," he said.
"But the question is, where will the money come from?"
Florence has seven fire fighting vehicles and 78 firefighters on shifts, Cochran said.
Robert Palmer can be reached at 256-740-5720 or robert.palmer@TimesDaily.com.