By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: June 4, 2018 | 1:15 p.m.
PRINCE GEORGE – One of the most talked about projects relating to public safety in Prince George County is one step closer to rising from the ground just off Route 10 as supervisors unanimously agreed to provide the needed funds to construct the county’s newest fire station.
Following a public hearing, supervisors gave a formal green light to move forward with funding for the project just over seven months removed from the groundbreaking ceremony held at the station’s future home at the intersection of Moody Road and Route 10 on the county’s northeastern side by approving the use of $1.9 million of unassigned fund balance dollars to help cover the remaining costs related to construction of the new station.
So far, according to Prince George Finance Director Betsy Drewry, as of May of this year, $1 million in funding has been borrowed during debt issuances in 2015 and 2017 to help bring the fire station to fruition.
In September of last year, supervisors were briefed on the status of the project and presented with options for constructing the new facility.
At that time, county leaders were presented with two choices, a partial build that would have seen only two vehicle bays and a day room constructed at the site with the option to expand the approximately 5,400-square-foot facility into a full-service fire station in the future or a complete build that features three full double bays, living and sleeping quarters, and other fire station needs within the 10,300-square foot building.
The two different options on the table at the time for supervisors, a phased approach that would see the vehicle bays built first then the living quarters built at a later time and the non-phased option where the entire facility would be built at one time, presented two different price tags that led to their decision to move forward with preparing to go to bid on the full design.
In September 2017, leaders were given an estimated price tag of the unphased full of the new Route 10 fire station of $2.6 million. Of that $1 million that was borrowed to help with costs related to the project, roughly $52,600 was spent on surveying and site work following the acquisition of the land in May of 2016, leaving around $947,000 remaining for the station’s completion.
The seated board at that time agreed via consensus to use up to $1.6 million of the county’s unreserved fund balance from the 2017 fiscal year to help cover the costs of the project instead of including the costs in another debt issuance.
Seven months later, following the commitment of funding from the board and the selection of a construction firm for the station, Kenbridge Construction at a cost of $2.9 million, a public hearing was needed as the requested appropriation would be over one percent of the county’s overall budget.
While supervisors agreed to provide up to $1.6 million in funding in September, in May, that increased to $1.9 million following the selection of the construction company, creating a difference of roughly $360,000.
Prior to supervisors deciding to follow through on their commitment from 2017, residents who would benefit from the new fire station spoke up in support of the project.
“We encourage you to approve this,” one resident remarked. “We frequently see emergency service vehicles drive through our area and we know there is a need here so please approve this.”
“A few weeks ago, we had a resident die after it took 20 minutes for EMS to get to them,” resident Bob Brown said. “That’s fine if you’re an undertaker, but it’s not if you’re EMS. Please approve these funds for the fire station.”
So far to date, $207,000 has been spent on the project, including the $52,600 on property costs, and another $154,000 for architectural services.
According to county documents, the biggest chunk of the $2.9 million earmarked for this project is going toward construction at $2.3 million, contingency funding of just over $110,000, appliances, furnishing, and equipment costs of $86,400 and alerting system technology and installation at roughly $108,000.
In September of last year, Prince George Fire and EMS Director Brad Owens summed up the important role this project will play in people’s lives in the area.
“There are about 1,917 homeowners in that area that will be positively impacted by this project,” Owens said, noting decreased response times and reduced homeowner’s insurance premiums as an added benefit of the project upon completion.
The construction time is expected to be roughly 12 months following the retention of a contractor, putting the project on an unofficial completion timeframe of late Spring to early Summer of 2019.