Fire station to be relocated closer to arena

LAWRENCEVILLE - A new fire station location could help firefighters respond to incidents in the growing Arena at Gwinnett Center area, officials said.

"There's a lot of construction going on in that area, apartments and retail buildings, and it will improve our response time in the area," Gwinnett Fire Department spokesman Lt. Thomas Rutledge said of the planned relocation of Station 7. "But the reason for moving the station does not rest solely with the arena. ... We need a facility that's big enough to hold a ladder company."

Last week, commissioners approved the purchase of a 3-acre site at the intersection of Old Peachtree Road and Bunten Road for the relocation. The land cost $180,000 per acre.

The current facility on Duluth Highway was built in 1975 and has bays for a fire engine and ambulance crew, but Rutledge said the department wanted an additional bay for the larger ladder truck as well as more room for four more firefighters per shift, a total of 12 personnel.

The arena opened in 2003 as an expansion to the county convention center. It is the home to Gwinnett Gladiators hockey and has hosted acts such as George Strait and Bruce Springsteen.

"They have upwards of 12,000 people there when they have events, so having a fire station closer would increase response," Rutledge said.

Rutledge said the arena was last inspected by the fire marshal's office in August 2006, but that report was not immediately available.

A Gwinnett Center official did not return a phone call left Tuesday afternoon.

While the relocation site is farther from downtown Duluth, Rutledge said several fire stations handle calls to the city and will be able to handle the load.

"I don't have a problem with it," Duluth Mayor Shirley Lasseter said. "I think it's going to be located to serve a greater majority of people in the area."

Plus, Rutledge said, the station had to be moved because of a planned project to widen Duluth Highway. Construction is occurring on a stretch of the road farther east, but officials hope to continue the widening to Buford Highway.