By Candy Reagan
Potosi volunteer firefighters have spent years dreaming of a new fire station – one big enough to house all their trucks and one that doesn’t have a dirt floor.
But the price tag – $160,000 just to get started and $500,000 to finish both phases of the project – is daunting for a department that relies on donations for its day-to-day operations.
“It’s a lot of money,” said Fire Chief Aaron Maxwell. “We’ve been really pushing it for about three years. We’ve got to funnel donations into the building but still keep the lights on and repair equipment.”
The new-fire-station fund finally hit the $100,000 mark in March, and firefighters are making a renewed effort this summer to raise the other $60,000 needed to begin the project.
Volunteer firefighters hosted five neighborhood block parties last summer and another two this spring. They are planning another two or three this summer in various neighborhoods within their district.
The parties have helped raise money for the new facility, but more importantly, they have helped educate the public.
“The real goal is to get out and meet people and talk to people – get our information out there,” Maxwell said. “It’s been pretty successful.”
What firefighters want people to know is that the Potosi Volunteer Fire Department covers an area from the Abilene City Limits to the hills south of Abilene and from US Highway 83/84 to the eastern county line. It’s a big territory that includes a large number of new subdivisions. The phenomenal growth of the Potosi area over the last decade has amplified the need for a new fire department.
“In 2002 we had 60 calls a year,” Maxwell said. “It’s really different now. We average about 200 calls per year.”
Currently the PVFD includes 18 volunteers and operates mostly on donations. Funding from the county helps pay for insurance and some equipment repairs, and grants and gifts have helped the department upgrade equipment.
“Equipment-wise we are in great shape,” Maxwell said. “We don’t have any big equipment needs right now. Our two biggest needs are personnel and a building.”
The fire department is housed in half of the Taylor County precinct barn, but the building is woefully lacking.
“Three of our vehicles are sitting outside right now,” Maxwell said. “Our current station has half a dirt floor.”
Firefighters have land ready and waiting for their new station with a plan to build the facility in two phases. Phase one is to build the equipment bays. Phase two is to build offices and a training room.
The entire project will cost about $500,000, but right now, Maxwell just wants to raise $160,000, which would be enough to get the shell of the equipment bays built and enclosed. Firefighters can help finish the project after that, and they can move their portable building over to serve as an office until offices can be built.
“I hope we can build for less than our estimate,” Maxwell said. “We are going to do all the interior framing ourselves.”
The frustrating thing for Maxwell is that the longer it takes to raise the money, the more expensive the project gets. The price of building materials continues to rise.
“Every month the cost of things go up,” Maxwell said. “The longer that it takes to get it done, the more it is going to cost.”
In addition to the block parties, the fire department is raffling off an All-Terrain Vehicle this summer. If that raffle is successful, firefighters hope to raffle off some guns this fall.
“If both of these raffles are successful,” Maxwell said, “we will have enough money to start.”