New substation in Pea Ridge

Published 11:28 pm Sunday, September 27, 2020

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Commissioners hear from residents against the location

PEA RIDGE—A new substation for the Green Creek Fire and Rescue Department will be built on East Pea Ridge Road and some area residents expressed concern over its location this week. 

The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Monday night and heard from Pea Ridge residents Jennie Smith and Michelle Fox-Lynch. 

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Smith said the second week of June was when they learned that the Green Creek Fire Department was building a substation 200 feet from the church and the residential community. She said a fire substation is not acceptable in their residential community. Smith said this is the largest black community in Polk County and homeowners paid for it with their hard earned money in the 1940s and 1950s. She spoke of the area being used as overflow parking for both residents and the church and this being social injustice and gentrification. Smith said there were 2 other options for the fire department to purchase. 

Fox-Lynch said the community does not want to stop the building of a substation but was against the location. She said the community is being told untruths and that the property up the street they were told was out of driving limits but found in their own investigation that it was short of the 5-mile driving radius. 

She said Pea Ridge is appreciative of a substation but want them to find another non-residential location. 

Green Creek Fire Chief Jeremy Gregg said the property has been purchased but not until the fire department had 2 community meetings. He said the fire department explored 3 options and the other 2 did not meet the requirements or would have cost too much money to develop. One other property was near the former White Oak development and another was on Coxe Road. 

“We decided to go with the property on Pea Ridge Road because of the location and the site prep was not as expensive as the other ones,” Gregg said. “The main reason was mileage.” 

Gregg said the other options did not cover Green River Highlands to get the ISO rating. 

“If we can put a station out there they can be a 6 ISO and can save 30 percent on their homeowners insurance,” Gregg said. 

The Pea Ridge area is the only section of the Green Creek Fire district that is not getting a 6 ISO rating. They are currently at a 9 ISO rating. 

Gregg said the fire department is only trying to do the best for that community. 

“We’re well aware of the concerns and I’m sorry for the concerns, but I’m trying to do what’s right for everybody,” Gregg said this week. 

Gregg also said he hopes to use the substation as a community outreach tool and hopes to pick up some more volunteers to be in the area. 

“It’s going to be their station,” he said. 

The fire department is not going to raise taxes for the new substation, which will be built in stages. Gregg said the fire department hopes to break ground on the station in October or November and will likely begin construction after the first of the year. The station will hopefully be certified next fall so homeowners can see their savings next year. 

The substation will be 80×80 feet with Gregg saying it will be aesthetically pleasing for the area and look more like a house with rock and an awning on the front and the bays on each side. The fire department also agreed to build it large enough for the county to one day house an ambulance there. 

Commissioner Ray Gasperson asked that the residents’ statements be forwarded to Green Creek fire officials. He said he attended both community meetings and there was a lot of discussion about the need for a fire station there. He said there was no dispute for the need, just the location. 

“I’m just hoping there can be more meetings to find some common ground,” Gasperson said. 

Polk County Attorney Jana Berg clarified that the board of commissioners has no authority over the fire departments. 

“They can do whatever is under their bylaws and charter,” Berg said. “We really don’t have any control over them. They are their own entity.” 

Commissioner Chair Myron Yoder said there is a separate fire tax that is collected for each fire district and the county just allots that money to them and they take care of their own budgets.