Ground broken at new Jefferson Park FD site

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: October 20, 2019 | 12:30 p.m. 

New station could open as soon as Spring 2020, officials say

PRINCE GEORGE – County public safety leaders hope this time next year, they will be operating out of what would be Prince George’s newest fire station following the successful groundbreaking at what will be the home of Jefferson Park Volunteer Fire Station this month.

On Oct. 6, supervisors joined members of the county’s fire and EMS agencies to herald the beginning of development of a new fire station to replace the current Jefferson Park Volunteer Fire Station along Jefferson Park Road with a groundbreaking, several months after county leaders approved roughly $3 million to support the station’s construction.

Once completed, this new station will be the second the county has constructed since 2017, when supervisors approved funding to build Prince George Fire Station 7 along James River Drive in Burrowsville, which opened this summer.

Conversations about addressing concerns at the station have been ongoing for several years, with residents using their time during the citizen comment section of county supervisors meeting to press leaders to allocate funding to the station’s replacement, with speakers pointing to issues with the station’s foundation, which is resulting in visible cracks due to the presence of shrink-swell soil the foundation rests on and the need for a more modern station as the area that the station services on a daily basis continues to grow and develop with a mix of commercial and residential development.

In an interview, Prince George Fire and EMS Director Brad Owens was excited about the prospect of being able to help in providing the community with a new fire station to serve the county’s needs.

“We really thank the board of supervisors for their support in pushing the project through,” he remarked. “It has been much needed for that station with all the issues they have with the soils around there. Plus, we have staffing at that station with career staff so, there are a lot of people there during the day and then at night with the volunteers having their staffing program. So, it’s a really good combination station with really good teamwork between the volunteers so it is really good to see them come together.”

According to Owens, both groups, the county’s career staff and the volunteers will have a voice in the station’s development in terms of its design and other key aspects, noting they will be using Prince George’s newest facility, Station 7 as a guide “as much as possible” for Jefferson Park VFD’s design.

“There will be some changes we are going to make with some things we have learned about Station 7 when we did that one, along with some things to accommodate the big volunteer presence they have and the career staff we have there,” he said.

One of the major changes that has already been confirmed for the new station is its placement in relation to Jefferson Park Road as Owens reiterated their intent to build the station in such a manner that allows fire and emergency apparatus to enter and exit the station from Brandywine Drive. Currently, those units exit the station directly onto the busy four-lane roadway of Jefferson Park Drive. In preliminary discussions, as part of having those units enter and exit the station on Brandywine Drive, it is possible an emergency traffic signal could be placed at the intersection of the two roadways that would stop traffic when apparatus needs to enter Jefferson Park Drive.

According to Owens, this change is a critical element of the future fire station.

“That is very important in terms of safety for our first responders,” he remarked. “Several years ago, we had to modify our practice and, while we still pull out onto Jefferson Park Road to respond to a call, we always come around the back and have to shuttle apparatus around to move it because it is so dangerous to back in off Jefferson Park Road.”

Jefferson Park Volunteer Fire Station serves a wide swath of the county’s northwestern end, including the growing Puddledock corridor and, in speaking with Owens, the new station will provide ample emergency service coverage to the area and support the area should current growth patterns continue.

“With the growth of the Puddledock corridor and the growth we are seeing in the area around the station, Branchester Lakes, The Meadows starting to grow with some residential growth, there are plans for more commercial growth in the area, that all increases the traffic of our citizens, visitors coming through, people eating at restaurants, all of those require some kind of public safety presence,” he explained. “All of that requires a public safety presence and also the ability to respond and protect them in the event that they need it.”

Owens continued, “The days of the 15- to 20-minute response time are kind of by the wayside. The national standard is changing and people are looking at those to make sure we are meeting the industry standards, it will take an increased presence over there.”

Looking longer term, Owens said the possibility of a Puddledock corridor emergency station isn’t out of the question as the county continues to look at its long-term public safety needs but no specific plans for such a station are in the works currently.

“The way I look at it, nothing is off the table,” he said. “It is all based on the demand of the citizens and the demand of services. If we have a call load that is centrally concentrated there that would warrant putting one there, we would definitely be presenting that to the board of supervisors so they are aware. In the station study we did, that is one of the areas we identified that eventually you will probably need a fire and EMS station to be able to effectively meet response times because, as the other stations get busy, there will be less available to respond to the area, so then your response times may be twice as much as they are if that takes place.”

In regards to funding, as part of their spring borrowing earlier this year, supervisors approved earmarking $3.2 million to fund the construction of the new Jefferson Park VFD station, one of several projects funding in the $9.4 million bond issuance, which included utility expansion and upgrade along U.S. Route 460 near the Food Lion distribution center and Route 156 in the county, the continued purchases of police vehicles, and new software for the county assessor’s office, among others.

While a specific timetable for the station’s completion hasn’t been announced, Owens has said they hope to have the station completed next year, with rendering of the facility noting a Spring 2020 time frame for the building to be finished.

Copyright 2019 by Womack Publishing
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