The city of Sandy Springs will pay $1.2 million for a vacant rental-car business on Roswell Road as a temporary site for a Johnson Ferry Road fire station that will be demolished and replaced.

Fire Station Two at 135 Johnson Ferry is 50 years old and needs to be replaced, the city said. The temporary site, a former Enterprise car rental lot at 6189 Roswell Road at the Mount Vernon Highway intersection, is riddled with complexities for getting fire trucks in and out of traffic.  The proposed solution depends on the outcome of a lawsuit regarding the city’s attempt to evict three billboards from a lot across the street. Some council members are also concerned with the cost of the temporary station.

A Google maps image of the current Fire Station Two, located at 135 Johnson Ferry Road. (Special)

The city hopes to open the temporary station by March 2020 and to complete the replacement by spring 2021. The city has requested a demolition permit for the current station, but first the temporary site and its issues have to be resolved.

At a Dec. 17 meeting, the council agreed to purchase the 0.317 acre lot at 6189 Roswell Road from Enterprise Leasing Company of Georgia, LLC., for $1.2 million. City Attorney Dan Lee said the city is not only buying the property for a temporary fire station, but also for a pending reconstruction of the Mount Vernon/Johnson Ferry intersection.

A Google Maps image of the property at 6189 Roswell Road that will be used as a temporary station while the new station is being built. (Special)

That controversial road project is waiting on the architect firm to deliver two designs, one with the controversial cut-through road that would need the taking of a home, and one without. It is unknown to the city when the property could become available and when the connector road could be built.

In addition to the purchase price, it will cost an additional $200,000 to renovate the former Enterprise building and to remove the billboards.

One truck from the current station will move to the temporary location and another truck will move to Fire Station Three, also known as the Heards Ferry station, at 6025 Raider Drive.

Access issues

The temporary site sits at the intersection of Mount Vernon Highway and Roswell Road. City officials say there is too much traffic for the fire trucks to enter and exit from Roswell Road and it is too hazardous.

The location also raises issues with fire trucks entering and exiting because the adjacent sections of Mount Vernon and nearby Johnson Ferry are one-way. To improve access, the city wants to build a driveway through a vacant lot it owns on the other side of Mount Vernon.

“You can only go east on Mount Vernon and you can only go west on Johnson Ferry,” Lee said. “[Without the driveway], they would have to go around a big circle to get around to where they’re going.”

But to make that happen, the billboards must be removed.

“But that’s an intricate part, removing those billboards,” Lee said.

The city was recently victorious in its lawsuit to bring the billboards down, but the company has filed an appeal to the judge’s orders.

Lee said the city has filed a motion with the court to allow for immediate possession based on the public safety needs, but it is unclear when the city will hear from the court or what the order will be.

Cost concerns

Some council members raised concerns that the city may be paying a higher price than what the property is worth.

“Are we paying a premium because of our need for it?” District 6 City Councilmember Andy Bauman asked.

“Are we shooting ourselves in the foot for the rest of this project?” asked District 5 Councilmember Tibby DeJulio. “We’ve got a lot more property we’re going to be buying on that road… These prices are getting to the point where we can’t afford the city.”

Mayor Rusty Paul said the real estate in the city has a higher yield and the prices will continue to rise.

“It’s driving the costs up, but it’s also a reflection of the success of this facility and its impact on the surrounding areas,” Paul said. “I think it’s high but it’s not going to get cheaper, not any time soon.”

Sanders said there is no other property suited for the temporary fire station.

“We have exhausted every alternative we can,” Sanders said. “There is no more property.”

Sanders said the next alternative would be to disperse all trucks to Fire Station Three and Fire Station Four at 4697 Wieuca Road, but that would add a two-minute delay to response time for fires.

“[Fire Station Two] is our busiest station and I feel we do need it,” Sanders said.

The council awarded the design contract for the new station to Hussey Gay Bell & DeYoung International, Inc. for $351,700.

The architect has significant experience for the project, Sanders said at the Sept. 17 meeting, with more than 35 fire station projects on its resume.

The first floor of the new building is proposed to have a kitchen and living room, and the second floor will have dorms, a laundry room, showers, a fitness room and a study room, according to site plans.

A rendering of the new fire station to replace the one at 135 Johnson Ferry Road. (Special)

The fire lieutenant and the battalion chief will also have their own offices on the second floor, an architect from Hussey said at the Dec. 17 meeting.

Currently, at the fire station, the daily minimum staffing includes a three-person engine company, a three-person tower truck company, a two-person paramedic rescue company and the on-duty battalion chief, according to the city’s website.

Hannah Greco

Hannah Greco is writer and media communications specialist based in Atlanta.