By Clint Parker
Leicester – For the past 42 years the Leicester Fire Department has called 2852 Leicester Highway home. While in those 42 years the department has expanded with two substations (one in Sandy Mush and one in Newfound) the central station has seen little change, but change is coming.
According to Leicester Fire Chief Chris Brown, in the next two weeks the department hopes to finalize the plans on the new station. “We’re in the final stages of trying to finish that up,” said Brown when asked about the new facilities. “Once that occurs, it has to go to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) to be approved. And when they approve it, if they approve it, we will be sending it out to bid. So I would say if everything goes fairly well and everything gets approved…I would say September [construction will begin].”
Chief Brown told the Leader that the USDA is funding the project over the next four decades as part of its rural development low-interest loan program. “Without their help, we’d never be able to do what we wanted to do,” he said. “They’ll be picking up the tab and we’ll be paying them back over the next 40 years.” Asked about the cost of the new facility, Brown said they have not come up with an estimated cost of construction at this time.
For those who don’t know, the new station will be located off of Alexander Road next to the Leicester Branch of the Buncombe County Library. Chief Brown said that the department has obtained permission from the county to use the current entrance used by patrons of the library. “We will be accessing there at the library. The county has given us right-of-way through there and so we will be re-doing the entrance way,” he explained.
“It’s going to be a great asset,” said Brown about the new building. He said the widening of Leicester Highway is changing the footprint of the current property of the site. “The road’s coming through and taking most of the front of our current station,” he said. “It’s something we worked really hard on over the last three years. There’s been a lot of thought that has been put into this solution.”
Asked about plans for the old station, Brown told the Leader that nothing has been decided yet, but several inquiries have been made about buying the old property and building.