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Norene fire station hits a snag

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Residents oppose proximity to playground

The proposed new Wilson County fire station at Norene, also known as WEMA Station 11, is looking for a home again. Sammie Johnson, who owns part of the planned station site next to the Norene Community Center on Cainsville Road, has withdrawn her offer to donate her family's share of the needed land, according to County Mayor Randall Hutto.

The rest of the site would have sliced off a section of community center property right next to the center's ballfield and playground, and a septic system for the fire station would have been installed under the playground - all of which had many Norene residents upset.

Over 120 sign petition

The news comes in the wake of slightly over 120 residents of the area signing a petition against the plan to locate the new station next door to the community center.

It would be unusual for residents of a community to oppose getting better fire protection, but petition signers say they aren't opposed to the better protection - just the location that was proposed.

While the protesters are glad the fire station isn't going to be located partly on community center property, they do support one in Norene.

"It's not the fire station we were opposed to," said Charles Phillips, vice president of the Norene Community Club. "We don't want their septic system under our playground."

The site plan called for the septic drainage system to be located on the community center's land via an easement.

"It would mean we couldn't dig a hole there, or put a building or a basketball court over it," Phillips said.

County breaking own rules?

The county subdivision regulations state that "in no case shall a septic disposal field extend onto another lot," Phillips pointed out - so the county was proposing to violate its own rules.

"I may be old-fashioned, but I believe that the county should have to abide by the rules and regulations they place on the rest of us," said Phillips, who planned to bring a large crowd to the upcoming meeting of the Wilson County Planning Commission Friday morning to oppose the fire station proposal.

But Mayor Hutto said Monday the petition and possible protest aren't the reasons for the county's decision to withdraw its plan to locate the station beside the community center.

"We had looked at 14 or 15 sites in the area when the Johnson family made an offer on the property," Hutto recalled. The problem was that most of the places the county considered either didn't have water available, or they didn't pass a soil perk test.

Suitable site hard to find

A perk test determines if a piece of property will support a septic drainage system. Since there's no county sewer system in Norene, any property the county purchases for a fire station needs a water supply and to pass a perk test, Hutto explained.

After Johnson made her offer to donate suitable property, plans were started to build on it, but there wasn't quite enough usable space - so the county approached the Norene Community Club for permission to use a section of the land owned by that group.

"The majority of the people voted yes," Hutto said, so plans were completed. Then when some of the people in Norene started signing a petition to stop the plans, according to Hutto, county employees went back to see if the building could be moved completely onto the Johnson farm.

"Then Johnson decided to withdraw the offer," Hutto said. "We've taken the plans off the planning agenda and are back looking for a piece of property that has water and passes the soil test."

Writer Connie Esh can be contacted at

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