Dedication of county’s newest fire station set for this weekend

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: June 4, 2019 | 12:30 p.m.

Community invited to Rt. 10 fire station dedication on June 9

PRINCE GEORGE – This Sunday, one of the county’s newest public safety assets will be formally dedicated and the community is invited to join in the celebration.

On Sunday, June 9, members of the Prince George Board of Supervisors and the county’s fire and EMS department will make their way to the corner of Moody Road and Route 10 to herald the opening of the new fire station slated to serve residents and businesses in that portion of Prince George for decades to come.

The event will kick off at 3 p.m. on Sunday, with parking being provided by River’s Edge Bible Church at 11311 James River Drive and a shuttle transporting attendees to the event.

In May, county leaders accepted the recommendation of County Administrator Percy Ashcraft to hold the event on June 9 at 3 p.m. at the station to allow for a greater number of community members to have the opportunity to partake in the building’s dedication, noting the county also held the celebration of the Carson fire station on a Sunday for the same reason.

Sunday’s celebration comes just over a year after funding for the construction of the new station was approved by the Prince George Board of Supervisors – totaling nearly $3 million overall. The station has been funded over the course of several years in the county budget, with a total of $1 million being borrowed in 2015 and 2017 during annual debt issuance actions, and, in 2018, supervisors approved using $1.9 million of unassigned fund balance to cover the remaining costs of the station’s construction.

For much of 2017, the then-proposed station served as a key discussion point for county leaders and public safety officials, who felt there was a need for fire coverage in that region of the county, noting the completed station will serve to not only improve response times but also likely result in reduced homeowner’s insurance premiums for those living around the station.

At that time, supervisors were presented with a pair of options in terms of construction, a 5,400-square-foot “bays-only” build or a complete station build-out with double the footprint.

According to Mike Winter and David Smith with HBA Architecture Interior Design during an October 2017 presentation, the bays only option, which would have seen only two full vehicle double bays and a day-room built during the first phase, would’ve been approximately 5,400-square feet in size upon completion, with the option to build living quarters added at a later time for an additional cost.

In contrast, the option supervisors ultimately went with at the advisement of county public safety representatives was a full build-out of the station, which features three full double bays, living and sleeping quarters and other fire station needs inside a 10,300-square foot building.

The architectural firm noted the facility would be a “pre-engineered building” with brick accents on the front of the building and the walls, particularly the ones around the vehicle bays, being insulated and heated.

In 2017, Prince George Fire and EMS Director Brad Owens and Burrowsville Volunteer Fire Department Chief John Nicol said they believed investing in the full build now would make the most sense in terms of operations.

“From an operations standpoint, the bays only option limits station operations,” Owens explained.

Additionally, during the conversations prior to the station’s funding approval, supervisors expressed some concerns about the nearly $3 million price tag for the station, wondering if the cost could be brought down to a level closer to that of the Ford fire station in neighboring Dinwiddie County built years earlier as then-Supervisor and Board Chairman William Robertson commented that the new station would be “$1 million more” than Ford station even though they are similar in scope.

Both Owens and Nicol noted, during their research of other jurisdictions and their recent station projects, the reason for the lower cost is tied to the economic downturn that was in place when the station was built, noting that the station was built “at 47 percent” of its budget and that they had more than 60 people take part in pre-bid.

“Their cost estimates were around $3 million and, as Chief Nicol said, the station was built when the economy declined so people were looking for work and it was built for roughly $1.6 million,” Owens remarked. “Unless that happens again, that won’t happen here.”

The county also gathered community feedback, allowing residents to chime in on if they would prefer to go with a phased approach to developing the station, with vehicle bays going in first, then living quarters and other features being added later, or to move forward with a full station build. During that 2017 public hearing, residents spoke favorably of pursuing the complete construction of the build, citing, among other reasons, the likelihood of the price tag rising further whenever the board decided to pursue the addition of the living quarters to the station.

“We need the whole thing,” Ben Woodford said simply. “It’s a positive move for Prince George County.”

“There is a lot of open property in that area, but I know there will be houses there at some point and if we have that fire station built there with today’s costs and funds, we will be pleased,” resident Lillian Boyd remarked.

Weeks later, supervisors would break ground on the new station, braving rain showers to celebrate the new investment into the county’s public safety infrastructure that will provide a valuable service to one of the county’s growing population corridors.

“This was a long time coming and I am very happy,” Chief Nicol said after the October 2017 groundbreaking, as his fire company will be assigned to oversee the building when it is constructed. “I want to thank everyone who has been part of this.”

The chief added, once the station opens, the county’s new recruitment and retention coordinator will be working to bring more volunteers on board and that they were completely committed to staffing the new Route 10 fire station with plenty of volunteers.

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