No bidders for construction of new Lake Wateree fire station

FAIRFIELD COUNTY – The new fire station that’s planned near Lake Wateree came out of its initial bid process with disappointing results: Not a single company bid on the project.

Fairfield County Fire Chief Jason Pope says he isn’t sure why no bids came in, but the details of the design and the surprising recent increase in the price of construction materials may have been factors.

His plan is to redesign the project with the goal of making it simpler and, perhaps, easier to bid on.

We didn’t have anyone really call us or say why they didn’t bid.

Jason Pope, Director
Fairfield County Fire Service

“As to the exact reason I couldn’t tell you. We didn’t have anybody really call us and tell us why they would or would not bid,” Pope told the Fairfield County Council at Monday night’s meeting. “However, what I can tell you is that our plan going forward [is that] we’re going to revisit the architectural drawings… and we’re going to make it a little bit simpler.”

Then, he explained in an interview Tuesday, they will actively seek bidders.

Given the high price of lumber, he says he’s not sure if the building can still be constructed for the budgeted $375,000, which was approved by the council in February. But he won’t know until he gets some bids.

“That’s definitely going to be a challenge,” he says of current building material costs, which he’s been told make the cost of constructing a building with wood comparable to the cost of a metal building.

“We put this bid package together last fall, and then the money was approved in February of this year, and during that time is when the lumber price spike happened, and so we’re not sure how that’s going to affect it,” he says.

“What we budgeted for the building – the price is going to be higher than that obviously, but without getting bids you don’t know what it’s going to be.”

If the bids come in a lot higher than expected, he says, then the county will have to consider its options – whether that means allocating more funding, delaying the project, or further simplifying the design to cut costs. But first, they need some bids.

“We want the fire station built,” Pope says. “It’s going to help protect the citizens and the residents of the county, so we’re going to do everything we can to get it built.”

The new fire station would be the 15th in the county’s mostly-volunteer system, which staffs five stations during business hours and relies on volunteers to cover the rest of the time and the rest of the county.

Pope says new volunteer firefighters are always welcome; the number today – roughly 165 countywide – is slightly more than half of what it was 25 years ago.

When the county’s volunteer fire departments opened beginning 50 years ago in 1971, he says, they relied on a strong base of community support. A decade ago, in 2011, the independent departments were consolidated under the county fire service as a core function of local government.

The new fire station, a project initiated and pushed into reality by former County Councilman Jimmy Ray Douglas, is to be built on River Road between the Lake Wateree Presbyterian Church and the recycling center.

The plan includes four bays to house a fire truck, tanker, boat, and EMS vehicle, as well as restrooms, showers, a kitchen, and living quarters to accommodate firefighters who might man the facility in the future.

Originally proposed in 2007, the project began in earnest about four years ago, Pope says. It took roughly two years for the county to obtain the 2.4-acre site to build it on, and site work has been completed by county public works employees; it’s now ready for the building.

In the area where it is to be located, Pope says, there are approximately 300 homes that are currently more than five road miles from the nearest fire station – a distance that means homeowners have increased insurance premiums and, more importantly, increased risk in the event of a fire.

“This fire station will put fire trucks in their back yard available to respond,” Pope says, “and it will significantly reduce their homeowners’ insurance.”


  1. Lou Ann Coleman says

    It is so sad that Fairfield County’s new reputation has spread so quickly. With the possibility of contracts being revoked, questioned, revised, or progress being flat out put to a stop, what contractor do you know who would bid with hopes of winning said bid?
    Thank you Fairfield County Council for putting us at the bottom of stack or more probable, in the can – as in trash.

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