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Meeksville fire chief says road closure would delay response times

When the Pike County Commission holds a public hearing Monday on Lockheed Martin’s petition to vacate a portion of County Road 7717, Meeksville Fire Chief Louis Davis is prepared to express his opinion loud and clear.

“I don’t like the road being closed,” Davis said. “It’s going to add roughly 10 minutes to our response time. It doesn’t sound like a lot until you need it. It’s no big deal if you don’t need us – but sooner or later you will, and that 10 minutes is going to be a lifetime.”

Lockheed Martin entered the petition in September 2017. Lockheed spokesman Mark Schaub Monday explained the company’s purpose for petitioning to vacate the road.

“This section of road runs through company property, and vacating it will allow Lockheed Martin’s Pike County Operations to remain competitive when being considered for expansion opportunities that have potential to bring well-paying, long-term jobs to the community for years to come,” Schaub said.

Since the petition was filed, the county has been doing due diligence, identifying any nearby landowners that may be affected and researching the issue.

Commissioner Homer Wright, District 1, has been doing his own due diligence in the meantime.

“Only one person I talked to that lived in the area didn’t like it, and he lives just before the area they would close,” Wright said. “They were saying it’s a shortcut for them. I haven’t gotten any calls (recently). Before we make a decision at all, I’d like to hear what the public has to say on both sides.”

Wright said in September that the only calls he had gotten were from Meeksville volunteer firefighters, explaining the added response time it would add. Davis said it would likely affect about 25 percent of the department’s calls.

“We’ll have to go all the way around our elbow to get back to our thumb,” Davis said. “If you close 7717, there is only one road that it will not effect us responding to. Anything other than that on the south side of Needmore, it’s going to add 10 minutes response time to. It would technically be closer for Saco or even Elmira out of Bullock County.”

Davis said that 10 minutes could be critical in certain situations.

“It’ll make a difference if your house is on fire,” Davis said. “Or a medical call. Can you hold your breathe for 10 minutes? I was 9 years old when my I watched my house burn to the ground because the Troy Fire Department couldn’t reach it fast enough. I’m very passionate about it.”

The public hearing will be held upstairs at the Pike County Health Department at 5:15 p.m. Monday, January 22 as part of the commission’s work session.

The business meeting will follow immediately after at 6 p.m.