The Winder City Council, in a called meeting last Thursday, approved a $3.28 million contract with Sunbelt Builders for construction of the city’s new fire station at the intersection of Highway 81 and Matthews School Road, near Fort Yargo State Park.

The contract includes a $150,000 contingency for a total project cost of $3.43 million. The vote was 4-0 with councilmen Chris Akins and Jimmy Terrell absent.

The project will be funded in part with the city’s SPLOST (special-purpose local-option sales tax) 2018 proceeds. Fire chief Matt Whiting said he expects the buildout to be around nine months and for the station to open by the first quarter of next year.

The new station will be a relocation of the current Station 2 on Firetower Road. City officials have said the building is aging and the placement of a station along Highway 81 would be more strategically suitable.

At a council planning and development committee meeting last month, Terrell expressed concerns about the traffic congestion along Highway 81 going toward Highway 316 and what impact that would have on the fire truck getting around. Whiting agreed the traffic is a concern but noted the construction of an overpass at the intersection of 81 and 316, which is underway, should alleviate some of the congestion.

The city received six bids for the project and a project committee — including Whiting, city administrator Donald Toms, Mayor David Maynard and the project architect — interviewed the four lowest bidders.

Maynard said Sunbelt emerged as the heavy favorite given its background with constructing several similar fire stations and that the low bidder’s lack of background in completing similarly-priced jobs concerned him.

Sunbelt “just made a great impression,” Maynard said.

Also last Thursday, council met in closed session to discuss pending or potential litigation matters. No action was taken as a result of the session.

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