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Firefighters aim to be good neighbors
New station set for Bunten Road

DULUTH - Charlie Culbertson wonders what kind of noise his new neighbors will make, but he admits they will be nice to have around if a fire breaks out.

Commissioners broke ground Tuesday for a new fire station on Bunten Road at Old Peachtree Road, but the news didn't excite Culbertson.

"It was just a shock," he said, adding that he only learned of the new station when a construction crew began grading the land, which is in a residential community.

"Some of the neighbors say it's a good thing to have a fire station nearby. Some say it's not," he said. "I'm sure if I have a heart attack, I'll be glad it's there."

During Tuesday's ceremony, officials extolled the virtues of the planned $2.6 million, 12,500-square-foot facility, which will replace Station 7 on Duluth Highway and add a new ladder truck alongside an ambulance and fire engine.

"When the new building is moved it will mean much better fire service and emergency services for all of Gwinnett County and the city of Duluth," Chairman Charles Bannister said, noting the increased response time to the Arena at Gwinnett Center. "This will be a much better location than the fire station is now, more accessible."

Steve North, the director of Gwinnett's support services department, which buys land for county projects, said he wasn't surprised to hear of complaints in the residential area.

"But you have to build a fire station where it's needed," he said.

Gwinnett County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Thomas Rutledge said the crews at stations in residential areas take care to be good neighbors. They avoid using the sirens, except in emergencies, and the station will even have a community room available for meetings.

According to a fact sheet distributed at the groundbreaking, the station was designed to complement the architecture of the community, and officials took pains to create an unobtrusive lighting plan and to save as many trees as possible.

"Firefighters and fire stations are generally good neighbors. They are there 24 hours a day if anyone needs help," Rutledge said, adding that crews keep the facility nice and clean and are conscientious about concerns.

For Culbertson, one of the biggest concerns was the potential for other lots in the area to be developed as commercial instead of residential, but he said the station may be nicer than the old house that it replaces, which had a backyard filled with junk.

"My concern is more of the possibility this could be a springboard to commercial development," he said. "Most of us would have said keep it where it is on (Ga.) 120. ... But fire stations are a good thing to have, and I guess we should be glad to have it."