LELAND, NC (WWAY) -- A shiny new fire station sits on NC 133 in Leland. It actually opened as a fire-police-rescue station nearly four years ago, but there is not much going on there.
"The station is not manned from a police or fire standpoint, either one, and a lot of that has to do with the economy being what it is," Leland Fire Chief John Grimes said.
Grimes admits the fire station is relatively empty. That was not the plan when it opened in February 2008.
"It is set up that whatever point the economy comes back around and the funding comes back enough to we can place career personnel in that station," Grimes said.
Grimes says the department gets money from fire fees homeowners pay annually. New construction adds to that fund, but without new homes being built the money just isn't there. So why build it in the first place?
"The town did some annexation and determined they needed to provide some additional fire protection," Leland Town Manager Bill Farris said.
Chief Grimes says the fire station was necessary to improve Leland's fire rating from a seven to a six.
The land was donated, but even so, there's a $2.2 million fire station with two engines not being used that often.
"It's very easy to justify," Grimes said. "I can speak personally for myself, the change from a seven to a six was $200 for me. If you looked at how many homes are in the Leland area that was covered by that station, I can guarantee you that those monies, in one year, would come really close to paying that station and those engines, and we're talking three years now. It's already paid for itself in savings to the taxpayers."
It's estimated it would cost about $450,000 a year to fully staff the fire station. The fire department says it does not have that kind of cash, and unless the town pays it, it looks like the station will remain empty at least until the economy turns back around.
Chief Grimes says his department does use the fire station to run its junior programs. Plus, it was staffed with paramedics and firefighters during Hurricane Irene, which is the plan during times of natural disasters.