COVINGTON - Newton County firefighters are hard at work even during their down time these days, building a supply warehouse that will give them the storage space they need for equipment, supplies and uniforms, and saving taxpayers money in the process.
The 1,800-square-foot building is being constructed behind Fire Station No.1 off Flat Shoals Road.
Firefighters from stations throughout the county have been helping with the project, doing everything from framing the building to electrical work to installing the heating and air conditioning systems.
The building will act as a central supply warehouse for the department, said Fire Chief Mike Satterfield.
"In the past and currently, we have no place to store. Supplies are scattered in different stations," he said.
The new building will not only provide a central location for storage, but will also make it possible to keep better track of the department's inventory, to have extra supplies on hand and to buy in bulk, which will save money, he said.
"As the department has grown over the years, more and more supplies are needed to be on site," Satterfield said. "We have cleaning supplies that have to be replenished on a weekly and monthly basis, equipment that has to be replaced from time to time ... It really is difficult, because some of the equipment is so specialized, it takes quite some time once we order it to get it in stock."
Lt. Hank Eller will be the supply officer in charge at the warehouse, keeping track of the inventory and ordering new items as needed.
"We have very little inventory control," Satterfield said. "Second, we have very little notification of when we're short on items and they need to be ordered. So by bringing all that in-house, we will put one person in charge of that warehouse, in charge of distribution and inventory control. We will have equipment in place when needed and supplies on a much faster basis."
Satterfield said the department has several employees who have experience in construction, including roofers, framers and electricians.
An outside contractor was hired to pour the concrete pad for the building and for a few other jobs, but for the most part, the building has been built by the hands of the men who will be using it.
Satterfield estimates the firemen are saving the county between $40,000 and $45,000 by taking on the project themselves.
The estimated budget for the project is $52,000, but Satterfield said he expects it will come in several thousand dollars less than that.
A rough estimate on the cost to hire a professional to do the work came in at $95,000, he said.
Satterfield came up with the idea to do the project in-house, having done similar projects at other departments in the past. About 15 firemen have worked on the building, he said.
"We feel like it does a couple of things. They have a lot of pride in this because they're doing it, and we feel like it's a good morale booster. They take pride in their work and what they do," he said.
Lt. Joe Cagle, who has experience in framing, is one of the men working on the project. Cagle said it "makes a big difference" knowing that his own handiwork was involved with the construction.
"It was neat for us to do. We've had a good time doing it. We've enjoyed it," he said.
Satterfield said the building should be finished by early January.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at email@example.com.