Tuesday, October 3, 2023

City Council votes to build second fire station, chooses location

The Williamsburg Volunteer Fire Department is hosting its annual door to door fundraiser from March 22 to April 5. (Andrew Harris/ WYDaily)
(Andrew Harris/ WYDaily/File photo)

An ever-increasing number of emergency calls in Williamsburg has prompted officials to find a way to alleviate strain on its fire station and fire-rescue personnel.

And a decision has been made.

City Council voted unanimously to build a second fire station on Capitol Landing Road at its regular monthly meeting Thursday at the Stryker Center.

“Ultimately I think this is a wise investment,” Councilman Benming Zhang said.

The approved plans include renovating the existing fire station on Lafayette Street and building a second station at 912 Capitol Landing Road.

There is no set time frame for when the second station will be built or renovations will get underway, but Fire Chief Pat Dent said it would be at least one year away. There are no official site plans at this point.

The designated location for a second station is based on a staff analysis and data from a consultant study that provided three options to improve call response times.

The idea of a second fire station was prompted in 2016 by the need to renovate or replace the existing station, which was built in 1978.

The conversation “led to a 2017” decision by City Council to issue bonds for the renovation or replacement of both the fire and police stations, which are across the street from each other.

The “General Obligation Bonds” total $19,630,000, which included refunding some debt and $13.1 million for construction, according to meeting documents.

Proceeds of the bonds need to go toward police and fire facility improvements, Fire Chief Pat Dent said.

“I think a second fire station is needed,” Councilman Doug Pons said. “I think we can satisfy the needs of today and the future at a much better budget.”

In 2018, city firefighters responded to 4,605 emergency calls, nearly 500 calls more than 2017 and more than 1,600 more than 2005.

Dent has previously said an increasing number of special events in the city has also increased the load on the existing one-station operation.

The fire department staffs about 40 special events a year, Dent said.

I don’t see any indication that the call volume is going to go down,” Dent said.

Despite a continually rising number of calls, the response time goal remains the same: a four-minute response time for the first unit on-scene in a majority of the city, and less than eight minutes for all city areas.

RELATED STORY: Build or renovate the old? Increased calls, aging building prompt council to consider 2nd fire station

City emergency personnel reach 66 percent of city addresses within the eight-minute response time, which meets the National Fire Protection Agency’s benchmarks for a fire department with paid personnel.

City staff have said some areas in the north end of the city average a 10-minute response time — indicated a second station could possibly help improve response times.

City staff chose three different locations for a second station that would decrease response times.

The first choice was on Capitol Landing Road, 150 Ironbound Road and the third was the area of Quarterpath Park.

The city previously used a second fire station on Ironbound Road. The structure was built in 1956 and fire-rescue crews responded to emergencies from there until 1976.

The building was demolished around 2010.

Dent said the Capitol Landing Road location would increase the number of four-minute emergency responses by about 18 percent, which the Ironbound Road location would increase the number by 14 percent, Dent said.

The estimated total project costs for the Capitol Landing Road and Ironbound Road locations are about $6.3 million and $6.6 million, respectively.

A renovation and redesign of the current fire station would cost about $5.2 million.

Dent said the cost figures are rough estimates and are likely over-estimates.

All of the options would require an additional four fire-rescue employees.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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