City Council approves purchase of facility at 450 Wofford Street for new fire station
Former Integral Solutions location to be converted for new City Fire Department Headquarters
Spartanburg City Council voted 6-1 to approve a $4.3 million purchase of the former Integral Solutions property at 450 Wofford Street with an eye towards converting the structure into a new central fire station. Council member Sterling Anderson voted against the purchase.
Initially included as part of the proposed fiscal year 2019-2020 city budget, Council voted to remove the fire station proposal along with a millage increase meant to partially fund the facility. Council member Sterling Anderson put forth the amendment removing the fire station plan from the budget, citing concerns over the three mills property tax increase (amounting to $12 on a home valued at $100,000) as well as the planned renovation of the former Integral Solutions building. Anderson has stated throughout the process that he favors constructing a new fire station instead of renovating the facility. As part of negotiations with the property owner, the City was able to negotiate the purchase price down from it's initial $4.5 million to the approved $4.3 million.
City Manager Chris Story has previously said that either a millage increase or a reduction in city services would be needed in order to fund either the renovation or new construction for a fire station. Council members Sterling Anderson and Jamie Fulmer have both stated their opposition to any millage increase to fund the station, and Story said at Monday's meeting that several options for funding the new fire station will be presented to Council in the coming weeks.
A new option for the Fire Department will be needed soon, as both the City Police Department and City administrative staff will be vacating the current City Hall within the next few years as part of a joint facilities agreement with Spartanburg County. In 2017, Spartanburg County voters passed a 1 percent sales tax increase to fund a new County Courthouse and new facilities for Spartanburg County Administration, City Hall, and the respective police agencies for both County and City. However, fire department facilities were not included in the referendum, leaving the City to fund a new fire department facility on its own.
City Council also heard an overview from City Attorney Bob Coler on a proposal to establish standards for 5G small cell wireless installations. The proposal was postponed at Council's previous meeting on July 8 in response to health and privacy concerns raised by people attending the meeting. Coler said that, according to FCC regulations, the City cannot stop the implementation and installation of 5G wireless facilities and can only regulate placement and aesthetics. He warned that without established standards, telecommunications companies would be free to install such wireless facilities on any public infrastructure they choose without the City's input.
Telecommunications companies cite the potential for 5G's increased capacity and speed to be used for everything from improved home and mobile internet connectivity to the future of automated vehicles and advanced virtual reality therapies that could revolutionize healthcare. In response to health concerns citied by opponents that reference the higher frequencies needed to achieve that increased capacity and speed 5G promise, Coler pointed out that while the non-ionizing frequencies are above commonly used radio wave frequencies—operating in the same range as airport scanners and radar installations used by the military—those frequencies sit below the infrared and visible light spectrum, far below the dangerous ionizing ultraviolet, x-ray and gamma ray radiation spectrum. Coler is expected to present updated guidelines for small cell facilities based on feedback from Council at their next meeting.
For more on Monday's meeting, see the full video and roundup of our live tweets below.