By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: June 25, 2019 | 12:30 p.m.
PRINCE GEORGE – Earlier this month, the parking lot of River’s Edge Baptist Church was packed to the brim with cars but it wasn’t parishioners on hand for a day of worship services but dozens of people making their way down the road to Company 7, the station’s newest fire and EMS station, for their grand opening and ribbon cutting.
After what has seemed like a deluge of rain steadily fell across the region in the days before the grand opening, the skies brightened and even allowed some peeks of blue appear behind the station as local fire and EMS officials, county leaders, and state representatives gathered to herald the completion of the new station.
Just over a year ago, the new station was still an empty plot of land as the county geared up for construction of the new state-of-the-art station, something that reminded Burrowsville Volunteer Fire Department John Nicol of the preliminary conversations held about some form of public safety asset in the Route 10 region of the county in the 1990s with then-director Ken Brown but, those talks didn’t advance far.
Years later, Nicol said, while driving along Route 10, his eyes were drawn to the property at the corner of Moody Road and James River Drive, seeing the plot as an opportunity to invest in fire protection in the area.
“I got on the phone and told the chairman at the time, Bill Robertson, ‘Bill, I got a situation,’”Nicol recalled. “He said, ‘What is it?’ I said, ‘I got a site for the fire department. It is right where we need it to be.’”
According to Nicol, the plan was to build the station closer to Beechwood Manor but, through their research, if they moved the station to where it is currently, they can serve more homes, thus providing more live-saving services to those in the area.
“So when we moved the station down, it served the county a whole lot better and that support came from the current board, the previous board, and going forward,” he said, explaining their fact-finding mission began from there, with members of their committee hopping in cars and visiting various stations across Virginia and North Carolina to glean information about their facilities and plans and how their knowledge can benefit Prince George County in what would become Company 7.
In terms of funding, the county began to earmark money for the project in 2015, with a total of $1 million in funding being set aside across 2015 and 2017 during Prince George’s annual debt issuance to help pay for what would become a $3 million project. To supplement the remaining price tag, supervisors opted to use nearly $2 million in unassigned fund balance to cover the rest of the station’s development and construction costs.
The station was developed by HBA Architecture Interior Design, who had initially provided supervisors with two concepts – a full build of the station as it exists now or a phased build that would have saw only the vehicle bays built first, with the addition of living quarters and other amenities added later in a second construction project.
While the merits of both options were discussed, both Prince George Fire and EMS Director Brad Owens and Burrowsville VFD Chief Nicol told supervisors moving forward with a full build would make the most sense in terms of the department’s operations.
“From an operations standpoint, the bays only option limits station operations,” Owens explained.
From the station’s conception, the community living in the area have offered vocal support for the new fire station, speaking at several different meetings throughout the project’s development, stressing the impact the station would have on response times to emergencies in their community and other benefits.
“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 during a public hearing in 2017. From that point on, the station rose from the corner of James River Drive and Moody Road, culminating in the state-of-the-art facility that was formally dedicated earlier this month.
“It was almost like a Christmas present, seeing it arrive right in front of our eyes,” Nicol said.
According to Nicol and Owens, the station will be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing vital public safety coverage for not only those living in the area but to those traveling in and around Route 10.