Queries come up over new firehouse
Posted: February 21, 2013
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — Frederick County officials reiterated their concern at a Finance Committee meeting Wednesday over what would happen if Round Hill Community Volunteer Fire and Rescue is unable to pay for its portion of a new station and social hall for the company.
The department wants to build the new facilities on up to 4 acres west of Winchester off Northwestern Pike (U.S. 50) — adjacent to the Village at Orchard Ridge community — to better serve its needs. Round Hill’s current station is more than 50 years old and has outlived its life span, according to Fire Chief Chester Lauck.
Round Hill will be responsible for coming up with the funds to construct the social hall and the county will pay for the station itself.
The Public Works Committee endorsed the company’s funding request of $452,347 for the planning and design of the station and social hall at its December meeting.
County Administrator John R. Riley Jr. said during Wednesday’s meeting that the fire company and county want to hire an architect to design both buildings to save money.
“Rather than having the volunteer fire department go out and hire an architect and a contractor to try and build a social hall we decided we’d try and accomplish this together,” Riley said.
However, during both January’s Finance Committee meeting and Wednesday’s gathering, there were questions about what would happen if Round Hill failed to meet its financial commitment to build the social hall.
If that happens, the county could end up owning the social hall and using it as a general purpose building like a Parks and Recreation community center or satellite government offices, Riley said.
Finance Committee Chairman Bill Ewing said it could also be converted into a community library.
Committee member Charles DeHaven Jr. said the county should have an exit plan if it was required to take ownership of the building, since he isn’t sure if taxpayers would be interested in owning a repurposed social hall.
“Possibly we could find use for it, possibly not,” he said. “We don’t want to strap ourselves with that if we can plan ahead and prevent it.”
The Finance Committee voted to approve the funding request and move it to the Board of Supervisors.
The fire station and social hall have an estimated overall price tag of $4.5 million and would include three vehicle bays with the possibility for a fourth bay. Round Hill Community Volunteer Fire and Rescue has about 40 members, with 25 active firefighters, according to Lauck.
Attending the meeting in the Frederick County Administration Building were Chairman Bill Ewing and members Charles DeHaven, Gary Lofton, Richie Wilkins and Ronald Hottle. Members Richard Shickle and Stephen Swiger were absent.
— Contact Matt Armstrong at email@example.com