County leaders presented an ambitious long-term vision this week for how fire and emergency services should evolve as the population continues to grow.
Among the options officials will consider in the coming years are whether to relocate a number of stations closer to fast-growing residential and commercial areas such as Lake Anna and Zion Crossroads, and places like Ferncliff that are anticipated to grow. Other stations need to be modernized.
“Most of these stations were not intended or built to be 24-7 facilities,” said Jeff Ferrel, assistant county administrator. “Some of them are old. We have staff and volunteers there all the time, and we need to have beds for them, separate facilities for men and women, to replace roofs and update heating systems. The better you can plan these things, the more easily you can control costs.”
The goal is also to reduce response times to emergency calls, which continues to be a challenge even as the Department of Fire and Emergency Services adds staff and vehicles.
The department and chiefs of the 11 volunteer fire and rescue companies have discussed consolidating facilities for Bumpass Volunteer Fire Department and Lake Anna Rescue Squad; moving Zion Crossroads fire and rescue station from Poindexter Road to James Madison Highway (Route 15); and relocating Louisa Rescue Squad to a new fire and rescue station at Ferncliff. In addition, Mineral Rescue Squad is open to relocating to the new rescue station planned in the New Bridge Road area near Lake Anna.
The time frame for some of these changes is the next 20 years, Ferrel said. But much of it could happen sooner. He presented a cost estimate of $19.1 million to implement the long-term capital plan. That includes $800,000 each for new stations at Zion Crossroads and Ferncliff.
The county owns a property in front of Stonegate Apartments on James Madison Highway that could house a fire and rescue station. Ferrel said 2025 is the target date to build in that area, which would provide easier access to Interstate 64 for transporting patients to hospitals, and to pending residential growth on the north side of the highway. It would also enable first responders to reach areas closer to the town of Gordonsville more quickly.
A location for a fire and rescue station in Ferncliff, where construction would occur between 2026 and 2030, has not been identified.
In the short term, the Louisa County Board of Supervisors appears likely to appropriate $800,000 at its Nov. 16 meeting to build a rescue station in the New Bridge Road area near Lake Anna. Supervisor Duane Adams (Mineral District) said he will seek action now that the Foundation for Lake Anna Emergency Services has raised $100,000 toward the project.
The $800,000 is in the county’s fiscal year 2021 budget, but the board opted not to appropriate the money last spring, given the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic. County Finance Director Wanda Colvin said on Monday the county’s revenues look better than was feared.
The station is tentatively planned on land the county currently uses as a bark park. Fire and Emergency Services Chief Robert Dubé said at the board’s Nov. 2 meeting that the ideal location, based on the current population, would be closer to the intersection of Kentucky Springs and Johnson roads. However, he said that as Cutalong, Lake Anna Plaza and other developments progress along New Bridge Road, the bark park location makes more sense.
“Eventually that’s where it needs to be,” Dubé said.
One of the suggestions in the long-term vision is to expand the new rescue station to include fire service. Jeff Ferrel, assistant county administrator, said this could be done for an additional $200,000 or so, and that the original $800,000 estimate included room in the building for both ambulances and fire trucks. Mineral Volunteer Fire Department is willing to move some of its equipment to the new station if the county wants, Dubé said.
Ferrel and Joe Gordon, Bumpass Volunteer Fire Department chief, toured numerous fire and rescue stations around the county as they discussed future building needs. Gordon also chairs the Management Oversight Group, which is a forum for county officials and volunteer chiefs to discuss budget and policy issues.
“It really is a big recruitment tool for the volunteers,” Dubé said of station construction projects. “That’s how they built their stations.”