Highland Mayor Jerome Norwood says he is pleased that the building is ahead of schedule. Norwood says the original scheduled completion date was in mid-October, but he said if all goes well, he anticipates the building being complete as early as August.
Architect Larry Bronson told Norwood that as soon as the roof is completed and the windows and doors are installed it should take approximately six weeks for completion.
The station will replace the original fire station that was demolished by the Feb. 5, 2008, tornado.
The approximately 5,300 square foot facility will house the department with a meeting room, chief's office and storage, in addition to the four bays for the fire trucks and equipment to be parked.
Many local residents were under the impression the new station would also house city hall. Norwood said that although a lot of work has been done in respect to applying for grants for a new municipal complex, the funding hasn't been obtained.
Norwood said that paperwork has been submitted to eight different sources to help obtain funding for the perspective project.
The mayor said he has spoken with both Sharp County Judge Larry Brown and Sharp County Sheriff Dale Weaver about the potential collaborative project that would be a combination of both city and county offices.
The planned split level building would house the city offices and council room on the top level and the bottom would be a combination of the Highland Police Station and a shelter that can house up to 360 with separate male and female bathrooms and a full kitchen.
The mayor said that the complex could also house the 9-1-1 center, which is currently in a space constricted location. In addition, the building could house a permanent Office of Emergency Management location. Currently the OEM is housed in a trailer that is not deployed until it is needed during natural disasters.
Following the 2008 tornado and the January ice storm, Sharp County officials' eyes were opened to the need for a permanent shelter location by the chaos caused by the county not having a predesignated shelter location in which to direct residents.
By building this new center, residents of not only Highland but all surrounding areas, would benefit in the event of any type of natural disaster like the tornados, floods and ice storm which the county has been plagued with in recent years.
Sharp County is also a designated receiving location for those who may at some point become displaced by hurricanes in other states. This type of shelter would benefit those evacuees at times when the county was not experiencing a natural crisis.
Norwood said that both Senator Mark Pryor and State Representative Marion Barry are working on helping to find funding options for the project as is Governor Mike Beebe.