By Sarah Plummer
The Hinton Fire Department, the City of Hinton, the Summers County Commission and members of the surrounding community celebrated the official opening of the new Hinton Fire Station No. 21 in Avis Monday, a project 30 years in the making.
Hinton Mayor Joe Blankenship stated, “I must thank Chief (Ray) Pivont, his officers, and all the firemen, paid or volunteer, past or present, for their loyalty to the City of Hinton. For years, these men have worked and operated out of a building that, by all rights, could have been condemned. Yet without a word of complaint they served our community with fire protection.”
Pivont explained that beyond the deteriorating facility, built in the 1920s and added on to in the 1960s, the firefighters did not have a large enough facility to house even a ladder truck.
“Now we have room for the equipment we need. We will still serve the public like we always have, but now we have better equipment to do it and better living quarters at our station,” he added.
At the new facility in Avis, they boast a ladder truck purchased used for $50,000 from New York, and a new special rescue truck funded by the city, county and the Legislature.
Summers County Commission President Jerry Berry emphasized the amount of hard work that had gone into keeping the fire station funded entirely from exterior sources, a task that included a rush application for “stimulus bill” funding that likely only succeeded because, due to advance planning, the station was one of President Barack Obama’s oft-touted “shovel-ready” projects.
“We appreciate the relationship we have had with the city and their fire service through the years,” said Commissioner Jack Woodrum. “We hope to continue that by helping provide this rescue truck. We appreciate the mutual aid they provide alongside our county and volunteer fire departments.”
Mayor Blankenship explained that the largest obstacle standing in the way of building a new fire station was financing.
“In June of 2009, the city applied for and received a loan in the amount of more than $1.3 million and a grant of $50,000. We were overjoyed by this news, but at the same time cautious and concerned; How would we find a way to pay this loan?,” he recalled.
Blankenship said with the help of city manager Chris Meadows, the city worked to secure a lease that had lapsed, implemented purchase orders for all departments and pay scales for employees, allowing them to plan for the future and pay off a $317,000 mortgage on city hall.
Blankenship also noted that with the construction of the new Hinton Fire Department and Family Dollar nearby, Avis is beginning to develop into a business section of Hinton.
Berry stated, “We wanted this building to be designed to last a minimum of 50 years. It had to be designed so that as the city grows, this department can grow with it. And it will.”
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