Seven Springs breaks ground for new fire station

Seven Springs breaks ground for new fire station

State, regional and county officials toss a ceremonial shovel-full of dirt at the groundbreaking for the new Seven Springs Volunteer Fire Department building. Photo by Linda Whittington / Neuse News

SEVEN SPRINGS – The Seven Springs Volunteer Fire Department may sit a couple of miles inside Wayne County, but its important work has been felt in southern Lenoir County for 60 years.

In particular, the SSVFD has served the residents of Lenoir County during the devastation and flooding during and after Hurricane Floyd in 1999 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016. However, both those storms did their damage to the SSVFD – flooding the old concrete block station on Main Street with 3 feet of water after Floyd and a staggering 5 feet of water as a result of Matthew.

 The old SSVFD building on Main Street. Photo by Linda Whittington / Neuse News

The old SSVFD building on Main Street. Photo by Linda Whittington / Neuse News

After sitting in the lowland near the Neuse River since being built in the 1950s, a new firehouse is being built for the SSVFD on much higher ground right off N.C. 55, almost directly across the road from Maynard’s Night Club.

A ceremonial groundbreaking was held Friday morning for the new station and was attended by nearly 100 people, including firemen, legislators, Wayne and Lenoir County officials and many others.

The funding for the nearly $1.6 million project came from the $360 million the state allocated for Matthew relief, according to N.C. Rep. John Bell. He and other leaders in the North Carolina legislature helped funnel those relief funds through the Golden Leaf Foundation.

 Officials hold the oversized check presented by Golden Leaf President Dan Gerlach. Photo by Linda Whittington / Neuse News

Officials hold the oversized check presented by Golden Leaf President Dan Gerlach. Photo by Linda Whittington / Neuse News

“This is a great day, especially since we were able to secure the funds to help,” Bell said. “We ran the funds through Golden Leaf to make sure the money got here as soon as it could. I’m glad we’re breaking ground but I’ll be even more excited to see bricks and mortar.”

Dan Gerlach, the Golden Leaf Foundation president, was on hand to present an oversized ceremonial check to the SSVFD.

“The General Assembly gave the Golden Leaf Foundation a responsibility for helping Eastern North Carolina get back on its feet, so our investment here today – the groundbreaking of the Seven Springs Volunteer Fire Department – is very important,” Gerlach said. “We’ve been told to get this money deployed and to get people back on their feet and that’s what we’re doing here today. We’re glad to be a part of it.”

Lenoir County Commissioner J. Mac Daughety lauded the efforts of the firefighters of the SSVFD.

“Without the Seven Springs Volunteer Fire Department, we’d have a big gap in service for residents of south and southwest Lenoir County,” Daughety said. “They help bridge the gap between North Lenoir and Deep Run – they’re very valuable to us.”

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Lenoir County EMS Director Roger Dail said getting a new firehouse for the SSVFD was important, not just for Seven Springs but for Lenoir County, too.

“This will help bring stability back to southern Lenoir County,” Dail said. “We’re very happy for them – they serve a very large portion of our county. We’re very proud of the Seven Springs Fire Department and we’re very thankful they were able to get this done since they serve such a vital role in our county.”

SSVFD Chief Jeremy Price said Lenoir County is certainly important to his 32-person department.

“Half of our district and half our staff comes from Lenoir County,” Price said. “We provide automatic aid to Sandy Bottom, Deep Run and La Grange and they also do the same for us. County lines do not separate us from doing our duty.”

The chief said Bell and N.C. Rep. Jimmy Dixon were two of the key legislators that made Friday’s groundbreaking possible.

“Rep. Dixon and Rep. Bell worked hard to get the money to us,” Price said. “We were told to apply for the money from Golden Leaf; nearly 14 months later, we received word we were getting it.”

Dixon said, “This is an example of how we can collaborate regionally. … Our efforts in the General Assembly, particularly for those of us representing Eastern North Carolina, we promote the regional concept.”

Price said the land the new station will sit on was sold to the county at a “minimal” cost by the oldest SSVFD firefighter, Jerry Sutton, who has served the department since it was founded 60 years ago.

Friday’s ground-breaking proved Lenoir County and ENC are continuing to bounce back from the devastation of Hurricane Matthew, according to Daughety.

“This is another example of the renaissance of Lenoir County from Matthew,” he said. “We’re coming back and we’re coming back strong.”

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