By Clint Parker
Leicester – Members of the Leicester Volunteer Fire Department and their invited guests gathered on a knoll on a beautiful sunny morning on Thursday (March 12) to break ground on a new $5.7 million fire station.
About 50 people gathered on a 10-acre tract of land, which is to be the new home of the department in just a little over a year if construction by Goforth Builders stays on track.
The groundbreaking ceremony opened with Gayland Justice, Board President for the Leicester Fire Department, addressing those gathered.
“We’re a little bit nervous, but we’re also excited,” she said. Then she introduced other members of the board and a district chief who talked about the history of the department.
Leicester District Fire Chief Ted Godleski opened with asking former Leicester Fire Chief and current Weaverville Fire Chief Ted Williams to open with prayer. Godleski then retraced the events that led the department to the site of the new station, beginning with the formation of the volunteer department back in March of 1966, where they worked out of the Leicester Elementary School. Then he told of the move to their current location in 1975 on Leicester Highway, where the department has been ever since.
He recounted that, like the new station, the 1975 station was a project done in conjunction with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). “I didn’t realize this until we got started with this project, but that was also a USDA Rural Development project.” He also cited the growth of the area as a reason for a new site and building to help meet the needs of the area and pointed to former Chief Williams as a catalyst in bringing about the discussion for a new facility.
“Back during the annual meeting in 2009, our then Chief Ted Williams…one of the goals he presented…was to start the pursuit of a new fire department main station…he also repeated this at the annual meeting in 2010. Godleski then mentioned an article published by the Leader that led to a phone call from the landowners who eventually sold the department the 10 acres for their new home.
Fast forward seven years later, then Leicester Chief Chris Brown, who has since retired, began the process of planning and financing a new station. “Chris, I tell you, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you very much! It’s been a privilege to work with you…on this project,” said Godleski.
He then recognized several people not connected with the department for their work in helping bring this project to this point, including representatives from political offices, the library branch, architects, and engineering firms as well as others. Then, members of the board and guests were invited to turn over the ceremonial shovel of dirt to signify the work that was about to commence.
The new 15,400 square foot facility will have four bays to house their mobile equipment, offices, kitchen, living quarters with the entrance and exit occurring through the current library property, which intersects Alexander Road. “This will be something they (the community) can be proud of,” said Godleski when asked about what the new building will mean for the community. “If you’d visit our old station, you would see that we are literally overrunning…We’ve had to retrofit to have paid personnel.
As the population has grown, as Leicester has got bigger…we’ve had to expand with our community, and we’ve got to the point we feel the need to build this new station so we can serve the community out of it. We’re looking for this building to be at least a 50-year building.”