CLARKSVILLE — In 1926, the first fire station in Clarksville opened its doors on Stansifer Avenue, in what is now south Clarksville. Now, nearly 100 years later, the town is taking the next step to protect and serve the surrounding community.
Firefighters, town leaders, community members and local dignitaries met Monday afternoon to break ground on a roughly 10,000 square-foot facility to serve as the town's new fire Station No. 1. The project, which will cost just over $3 million, is funded through TIF dollars and will be built at Stansifer and Sherwood avenues across the street from the existing firehouse.
Working with town leaders and safety personnel, Kovert Harkins created the design of the new structure with the 1926 facility in mind. Local contractor AML will lead the construction, which is expected to be finished by the end of the year.
“The build-out of the new fire station represents a promise made and a promise kept,” Clarksville Redevelopment Commission President Aaron Stonecipher said at the Monday groundbreaking ceremony, “to our professional firefighters and to the residents of Clarksville.”
The 1926 structure was replaced with a new firehouse in 1977. Faced with a deteriorating building now more than 40 years old, town leaders had to make a decision: rehabilitate the old building or build new. Through analysis with Kovert Hawkins, the new building was deemed to be the most fiscally responsible.
“The original fire station existed in a different time,” Clarksville Town Council President Paul Fetter said to the crowd. “There was not a central dispatch, yet the firefighters were on call 24 hours a day. Fire alarms were made by people walking up to the station or occasionally, phone calls.
“The new design will provide for decades of service and answer the needs of fire protection in south Clark development.”
Stonecipher remembers his first tour of the Stansifer firehouse in 2016, as town council liaison to the department. He saw “cracked ceilings, questionable support beams and very inefficient heating.
"Spending one morning there was enough for me, let alone a firefighter on a 24-hour shift.”
But the new facility, planned for land across the street near Lakeshore Condominiums, will offer firefighters modern features for safety and quality of work.
A diesel exhaust system will pull harmful fumes from the bay area, a decontamination spot will allow firefighters to remove chemicals before entering the living area of the firehouse. Updated dispatch and lighting will be installed, along with workout equipment.
“The new Station 1 will offer our firefighters a clean, calm and modern interior with a residential feel,” Stonecipher said. “All while using the exterior to remember Clarksville's architectural past and its 1920s station that once stood there.”
And the station will be one of the first large, new projects implemented in the south Clarksville Redevelopment Plan. Town leaders say it will fit in well with an area that's been designated the town's arts and cultural district. A memorandum of understanding was entered into last month with the City of Jeffersonville to improve connectivity in the area between the two municipalities.
The arts and cultural district already has a head start — the area near Montgomery Avenue includes Derby Dinner Playhouse and the Clarksville Little Theater. Clarksville Cove aquatic park is on nearby South Clark Boulevard, and next month the community will offer input on a potential action park in the existing Colgate Park next door.
“We're so excited,” Lakeshore resident Carol Joy Barker said about the new fire station. “It's going to help the neighborhood so much ... we'll feel safer. I think it's just a 100 percent win-win for everybody.”
Barker likes the idea of the new park, too. “Kids need a safe place to do their skateboarding and stuff and [the proposal] is wonderful,” she said. “I'm all for it.”
Clarksville Fire Chief Brandon Skaggs said Station No. 1 always has been a neighborhood fixture. Firefighters would fix kids' bikes, help visitors with directions. He said he sees the new location keeping that vibe.
“Our main goal is to have a comfortable, hometown feel to our neighbors and guests,” he said, adding that the neighbors have been good to firefighters as well. “We've had good neighbors as long as I've been here and I'm sure we'll have great neighbors for many years. I am truly humbled to be the Clarksville fire chief.”