Groundbreaking for new Jefferson Park FD slated for Sunday

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: October 3, 2019 | 2:30 p.m. 

PRINCE GEORGE – Efforts to replace one of the county’s aging fire stations continue to move forward as county officials prepare to hold a special groundbreaking to mark the beginning of development of a new Jefferson Park Fire Station.

According to County Administrator Percy Ashcraft, the special groundbreaking is set for Sunday, October 6 from 3 to 5 p.m., with the event taking place near the corner of Brandywine Drive and Jefferson Park Road, only a short walk from their current building that is in need of replacement due to structural issues and the need of additional space as growth continues to occur in this and nearby regions of the county.

Over the last several years, residents have used their time during county board meetings to voice their concerns about the state of the Jefferson Park Fire Station, which dates back to 1987, built during a time when Prince George was fighting annexation from neighboring Petersburg and Hopewell, all while that portion of the county was in the midst of residential and commercial growth.

Many of the concerns raised by those residents were echoed by Prince George County Fire and EMS Director Brad Owens, who noted the appearance of cracks and other foundation-related issues inside the three-decade old station, along with space limitations as the station becomes serves an area with one of the highest call loads in the county.

“Over the years, we have dealt with some issues with the foundations with the walls cracking and things like that,” he explained. “Over the years, they have tried to do things to keep it going as that area around the station continues to grow and its one of the highest call load areas in the county.”

“It has served its purpose for what it was built for in 1987, but they have outgrown it,” Owens continued. “We are now running an ambulance, EMS out of the building where before it was just for fire protection so they have a very active membership there that interacts with our career staff who pull duty together so we have a lot of people who are there so it is about time.”

Jefferson Park Fire Station is due for replacement as county leaders plan to move forward after concerns from residents and fire officials about the building’s state and the need for a more robust station in an area where call volumes are increasing. 

Regarding the foundation of the building, officials have tied the development and expansion of cracks in the building to shrink-swell soil, also known as expansive soil, which generally refers to soil that can change significantly in volume based on its moisture content. According to a July 2007 map provided by Prince George detailing shrink-swell potential in the county, parts of Jefferson Park Road have been designated to have a low potential, while some parts along Crossings Boulevard, Jefferson Park Road, and Brandywine Drive were assigned moderate and high potential of shrink-swell soil.

During their spring borrowing this year, county leaders approved $3.2 million of their $9.4 million debt issuance to be earmarked for the development and construction of a new Jefferson Park Fire Station, with Deputy County Administrator Betsy Drewry noting that price was a placeholder and the true cost of the building “will require fine tuning as discussions continue regarding [the] design and type of station.”

She added some cost savings could be found in using one of the county’s recent stations, such as Carson or the recently completed Route 10 fire stations, as a guide for the new Jefferson Park fire station building.

With the groundbreaking approaching, Director Owens detailed in an interview this year that it is time for the development of a new station as that section of Prince George continues to grow.

“It really wasn’t designed for living quarters so, the volunteers doing their staffing programs and the career staff being there 24-7, we have had to make a lot of modifications to allow that so it is time to really have a building that was designed to have people around the clock there with adequate facilities, meeting and training rooms, and space for the apparatuses,” he said.

 Space is limited in the vehicle bays of the Jefferson Park Fire Station. That, paired with the station’s direct connection to Jefferson Park Road, a major roadway, is among the list of reasons for the station’s replacement. (Michael Campbell)

One aspect of the design of the future station has been discussed openly is moving the station’s primary access off of the busy thoroughfare that is Jefferson Park Road, with plans to build the station along Brandywine Road to allow for better access for fire engines to get into and out of the station. In addition, flashing signals would be installed to help with the flow of emergency vehicles, something that has been a challenge for the station with the county’s growth.

“It does get the main station off Jefferson Park Road which, right now, we have had to modify how we get into the station,” Owens said. “Years ago, we used to just back right in. Now, with the increased traffic coming down Jefferson Park Road, that is very dangerous so we now bring them around the back where we bring regular cars and vehicles for the volunteers. Over the years we have tried to adapt to using that building.”

“As for the citizens,” he continued, “they will not see any sort of change in the services because we would relocate right down the street.”

Sunday’s groundbreaking comes roughly three months after the opening of Company 7 along James River Drive. The 11,000-square-foot building features three double bays, allowing for the comfortable storage of fire apparatus, living and sleeping quarters, and brickwork to accentuate the building’s pre-engineered structure. In total, nearly $3 million was spent as part of that station’s development and construction.

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