Chelsea primeed for town hall

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Chelsea Mayor Earl Niven Sr. did not expect the rapid growth the city is experiencing today when it incorporated in March 1996.

In the past two months, staff members have approved 120 building permits from city offices in the First National Bank building on U.S. Highway 280.

The 7-year-old city’s population has blossomed to about 4,200 residents, and Niven said he expects about 2,500 new homes within the next five years.

In response to that growth, Chelsea will soon open a new city hall and a fire station to serve the southern part of the city. Niven said he hopes the city’s administrative offices can move into the new $2 million city hall in May.

Currently, the mayor and City Clerk Bob Wanninger work from offices in the First National Bank building on U.S. Highway 280.

The new 15,000-square-foot city hall at the corner of county highways 47 and 39 will allow the city to hire additional staff, Niven said. The second floor of the city hall will remain unfinished, allowing for future expansion.

&uot;We are building with a vision of the future,&uot; Niven said recently. &uot;This will allow us to provide services for the city for many years before we have to think about expansion.&uot;

Since 1996, the headquarters for Chelsea city services has been in the First National Bank building on U.S. 280, where the Chelsea public library has also been stationed. Niven said the new city hall will help city officials meet the public’s needs.

In 1996, Niven said he did not think there would be a Chelsea City Hall set to open in 2004.

&uot;Just look at the progress that has been made,&uot; Niven said.

Construction workers recently finished laying bricks on the outside of the new government office building.

The building will house the city’s council chambers, planning services and library as well as a sub-station for the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department.

In addition to a new city hall, Chelsea will soon begin construction on a new fire station to serve the southern part of the city.

Currently, a small white building on Shelby County Highway 69 holds several fire trucks for the Chelsea Fire Department. No staff work from that building because it has no plumbing or restrooms.

Chelsea Fire Chief Wayne Shirley said the small white building was never designed for staff.

Volunteer firefighters drive from the main Chelsea fire station on Highway 280 to the small white storage building on Shelby County 69 when responding to calls from south Chelsea. Response times to calls from the southern end of the city average about nine minutes, Shirley said.

Calls from the northern end of town, closer to the main fire station on U.S. 280, are under five minutes.

The new station will be built on Highway 69, where the fire department’s small storage building currently sits. The old building will be torn down for the new construction.

Niven said Chelsea developer Mike Strong donated about an acre of property to the city for the new station, which will feature living quarters, an office and a kitchen in addition to four bays for fire engines.

Once the new station is completed, Shirley looks forward to adding paid staff to the mostly volunteer fire squad.

&uot;Hopefully, we will move to a situation where we can have two paid staff at both locations,&uot; Shirley said.

Response times should drop dramatically with full-time staff, according to Shirley.

&uot;We’re hoping to obviously make some drastic impact to our response time for areas served by the south station,&uot; he said.

The number of calls to the Chelsea Fire Department has increased since Shirley started as fire chief in 2000.

Firefighters often respond to more than one call at a time, according to Shirley.

In November, the Chelsea Fire Department responded to 75 calls