ROSWELL, Ga. – More than a year on from the most recent bond referendum, Roswell has yet to decide where to place a new fire station east of Ga. 400.
In November 2012, Roswell voters overwhelmingly approved raising $14.7 million in bonds. The money was to pay for improvements to the Holcomb Bridge Road/Ga. 400 interchange, recreation paths and sports fields. There was also $1.5 million for the replacement of Fire Station No. 4 on the east side of Ga. 400.
This aging building is showing wear and tear. It is old and too small for the needs of east Roswell. Being infested with termites doesn’t help either.
While the need for replacement is universally acknowledged, the land it sits on is not big enough to house a modern station. It will have to move. As anyone driving in that part of town will attest, there are not many open lots remaining.
One site that came up early in discussions was to use land from the nearby Big Creek Park. It is both nearby and city-owned land – there would be no need to purchase property.
Several hundred people have signed a Change.org online petition calling on the city to stop thinking about using Big Creek parkland for the fire station. Their petition cites a lack of green space in the city and to take that away would reflect poorly on Roswell. The petition has more than 700 signatures as of Dec. 4.
One signer is former Roswell Councilmember and mayoral candidate David Tolleson, who says that using parkland would be a bad idea.
“My concerns are that the bond referendum that passed to purchase Big Creek and other parklands had a strong [voter] turnout, passed with 80 percent. That was a direct vote of the people who said ‘tax me and use it for this,’” Tolleson said. “Unlike Washington or the state, county or other government, in Roswell we have used the money as directed by the people.
“To overturn that, even if well-intended and useful, flies in the face of how we do things in Roswell,” he said.
The danger, he said, was that taking parkland for another use could become a slippery slope. First, it’s a needed fire station, then it’s a needed landfill and then a needed school – all good, useful projects that are needed, but at the cost of the city’s prized parkland.
Big Creek is appealing to the city because the land is already city-held. If Roswell went looking elsewhere, the land purchase price could be hefty.
Councilmember Becky Wynn, the City Council liaison to the Public Safety Department, said Big Creek was always an option, even if never a good one.
“We really need a fire station within a one-mile radius for insurance purposes,” Wynn said.
While she would not go into specifics of what locations have been looked at, she confirmed more than a dozen potential sites were contemplated and narrowed down.
“We have several options we are looking at now,” she said. “Big Creek was never taken off the table but was definitely not our first choice.”
She hopes a decision will come by the first of the year.