A fire station that has served South Waco for almost 60 years is permanently closed, with its crew in temporary quarters until a new $2.9 million facility at 4515 Bagby Ave. replaces it.

The crew of Fire Station No. 5 has been quartered at the Waco Central Fire Station on Columbus Avenue since early 2016, when it moved out of its longtime building at 2624 Speight Ave. because of repair work related to a leaking roof.

But Fire Chief Bobby Tatum said he pulled the plug on that work last fall because of delays and high costs, preferring to shift the repair money to a more modern building in a more strategic location.

“This was an opportunity to say that we could move the station to expedite the building of a new station,” Tatum said.

The city recently spent $400,000 for a site near the Goodwill Industries headquarters at Bagby Avenue and New Road. Construction will start by early next year on a new building costing about $2.5 million and will wrap up within a year, he said.

The old building will be put up for sale, and a neighboring church is interested in the property, Tatum said.

A 2015 study indicated the existing Fire Station No. 5 building was too close to other inner-city fire stations and not close enough to Waco’s southern growth edge, Tatum said.

“This puts a fire station out closer to the Central Texas Marketplace area,” he said. “Where Station 5 has been located on Speight, our coverage was overlapping with other stations.”

The fire station will house an office for a battalion chief and quarters for firefighters.

Tatum said that area is growing so fast that it was difficult to find a site for less than $700,000. The final site wasn’t listed for sale, but real estate broker Jim Peevey approached the owner and made a deal.

“They paid a very reasonable price,” he said. “That’s a high-growth area of Waco. There are three hotels being designed, one being built and two new restaurants on the way. There have been three new apartments in the last few years.”

Tatum said he wants to make sure the city makes future fire station site purchases ahead of Waco’s growth.

He said the city is negotiating a deal with a developer in the Ritchie Road area for the site of a future Fire Station No. 1 as that area grows.

In the meantime, the city is still scouting a new location for North Waco’s Fire Station No. 6, which is in an undersized building at 2800 Bosque Boulevard.

Tatum said city officials had explored buying the old 25th Street Theatre site and maintaining the façade and marquee as part of a fire station and meeting facility. However, he said an ownership dispute involving the building makes that unlikely.

J.B. Smith is the the Tribune-Herald managing editor. A native of Sulphur Springs, he attended Southwestern University and joined the Tribune-Herald in 1997. He and his wife, Bethany, live in Waco and have two children.

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