A piece of Hardin’s history has a new look. Until recently, Hardin’s fire station on SH 146 looked pretty much the same as it did when built in 1983. Over the years, the department’s faithful volunteer firefighters have hosted fundraisers to help them purchase equipment and gear they need to better serve the community.
With the fire and rescue department now benefiting from a slight sales tax increase through Liberty County Emergency Services District No. 7, the makeover, new equipment and long-range plans to build a new fire station in Moss Hill no longer seem out of reach.
The makeover at the Hardin fire station came after a change of plans. The ESD board was interested in selling the fire station and relocating to another property near Hardin Elementary. When the deal fell through because a clear title on the land became problematic, the board used money it had already borrowed to purchase a five-acre site on FM 834 near Hardin High School.
ESD Board commissioners say the move to a site off of SH 146 is critical because the roadway has seen a big increase in traffic over the years, making it unsafe for the sluggish fire trucks to enter the fast flow of traffic, particularly northbound traffic at the railroad overpass.
Of the remainder of the borrowed money, some is reserved in an account earmarked for future projects. The rest paid for remodeling the old Hardin fire station and purchasing $40,000 in air packs for five firefighters.
“We hope to repackage the loan after we pay off a piece of equipment later this year,” said Klint Bush, one of the ESD No. 7 commissioners.
The remodeling project at ESD No. 7-Hardin Fire and Rescue includes new roll-up doors for the firetruck bays, new paint on the entire exterior, a new entryway and offices for the ESD board to hold meetings and greet the public, new signage and a flag pole.
The color scheme of exterior is two-tone dark gray with red bay doors. Glass windows create an inviting and well-lit atmosphere for the new office space.
With the life of the fire station now extended a few more years into the future, the ESD board plans to concentrate its efforts on building a new fire station on land on SH 105 East that was donated to the department last year by Bill and Tammy Wingfield, owners of Maci Feed in Hardin and residents of Moss Hill. The board believes the ESD No. 7-Moss Hill fire station will be built within the next two to three years if all goes as planned.
“We’ve learned that the new fire station in Moss Hill will cost us about $1.6 million to build something on that site,” Bush said. “We were expecting it to cost about $600,000 to $700,000 but there is no way it will cost that.”
Bush said the board right now is concerned about reduced sales taxes as a result of COVID-19 and the lockdown.
“Simply Country is one of our biggest taxpayers in Moss Hill and they shut down for a few weeks,” added ESD No. 7 Commissioner Mark Neal.
With all businesses combined, the ESD receives an average of $8,000 per month from the new sales tax that was approved by voters in November 2019. This is an additional $0.01 in sales taxes for items sold in the unincorporated areas of the district. Hardin is not included in the sales tax increase as the City of Hardin was already capturing that sales tax for city purposes. The new sales tax increase in the unincorporated areas also allowed the District to lower property taxes by $15,000 per homestead.
The ESD board is hoping the Hardin fire station will once again be a main hub in the Hardin-Moss Hill community.
“We want to look into renting out the building for gatherings at some point in the future. The fire department used to be the focal point of the community and we want to get back to that,” Bush said.
Other plans include hosting community dances and fifth-quarter events following Hardin High School home football games.