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New fire station to bring savings, water to rural west Pulaski and east Saline counties

by Neal Earley | September 7, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.

Ground was broken Monday for a new fire station that rests on the border of Pulaski and Saline counties, which could mean thousands in savings for residents where fire hydrants and firetrucks can be scarce.

The new fire station, located at 3006 Brush Mountain Trail in rural West Pulaski County, will serve residents on both sides of the county divide when it opens. The station, likely to be completed by the first quarter of 2022, will be the sixth for the volunteer West Pulaski Fire Department, Chief Scott Joblin said.

The additional station will likely mean a drop in homeowner insurance costs for some, as premiums depend on the quality of the nearby fire service, measured through a rating from the Insurance Service Office.

Since homeowner insurance premiums are partially based on insurance service rating, the price one pays in insurance can increase the further a home is from a fire station. In densely populated cities like Little Rock, that is not an issue, but in rural areas, it can be costly.

The Western Pulaski Fire Department has few fire hydrants in its coverage area for engines to hook up to, which along with the number of stations and other factors, contributes to the service rating.

The rating system goes from 1 to 10, with 1 being the highest rating. For residents in western Pulaski County and eastern Saline County, the rating from the Insurance Service Office can range from 6 to 9.

Whether the service rating is a 6 or a 9 can mean a difference of thousands of dollars in annual insurance premiums, according to Ed Terry, owner of Terry Insurance Agency in Cabot.

"I'm just speaking generally, [for] a $150,000 home, a class six may run you $1,500 a year, a class nine might be $3,800," Terry said. "I mean it's an enormous difference."

"By building that station and putting an engine out there, all the folks that live within five miles of that station now get the advantage of having that lower rating and thus may have an impact on their homeowner insurance rate," Joblin said.

In rural parts of Pulaski County, insurance service ratings range from a 2, like in the Gravel Ridge department's coverage area, to a 9 in Quail Creek Fire Department's area.

Volunteer fire departments often suffer from a lack of volunteers, also hurting the rating. Joblin said he hopes West Pulaski Fire Department's new station can work as a public relations and marketing campaign to bring in donations and volunteers.

"We need, not just in that sixth station, but in all of our five -- soon to be six stations --there is a need for dedicated volunteers to serve the community," Joblin said. "I'm hoping that the addition of the sixth station will draw more people from western Pulaski/eastern Saline County in the area come and volunteer their time."

To help pay for the fire station, which Joblin estimates will cost around $125,000, the West Pulaski Fire Department will ask residents to donate the first year of savings they get from their insurance premiums.

With the new fire station breaking ground, Central Arkansas Water announced in August it was working on providing its water service to western portions of Pulaski County, providing water to more than 1000 residents who currently depend on wells.

While residents are divided about paying the $125 per month surcharge that would come with the utility, the project will bring "dozens" of additional fire hydrants, which could also lower insurance premiums.

"Having CAW in West Pulaski will be a great benefit to the area, as it will vastly improve access to water for fire protection with the addition of dozens of fire hydrants," said Douglas Shackelford, a spokesman for the Central Arkansas Water. "Also, residents of the area could see lower homeowner insurance rates if the ISO rating is lowered due to better access to water."

Shackelford said the utility is looking "for additional sources of funding," which potentially include federal coronavirus relief funds. Central Arkansas Water officials will hold public meetings in the fall about its expansion project, Shackelford said, aiming to begin construction in the first quarter of 2022.

Print Headline: Insurance savings likely with new rural fire station

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