By Alex Bridges
FRONT ROYAL - A volunteer fire station's request for aid has prompted the town to check and see if Warren County is funding the company per a years-old deal.
Information provided to officials from both localities at a meeting this week shows Warren County spends hundreds of thousands of dollars to staff and equip the Front Royal Volunteer Fire Department. That amount continues to grow each fiscal year.
The Front Royal Volunteer Fire Department has inquired about any vehicles the town may donate to the organization. The department also has asked if Front Royal can contribute funds for equipment upgrades, Town Manager Steven Burke told representatives of Front Royal and the county at a liaison committee meeting Thursday.
The 1998-1999 Corridor Agreement transferred the fire and rescue responsibilities for town residents living in the area of U.S. 522 North from Front Royal to Warren County.
"Following the request by Company 1, the Town needed to ensure that the agreement was being upheld," Burke stated in an email Friday.
Mayor Timothy Darr said some council members had voiced concerns about the department's funding.
But as County Administrator Douglas Stanley explained to the committee, Warren County continues to spend more to fund the fire company. Stanley showed members a history of the county's contributions since 1997.
Darr noted, "These are some enlightening figures." He added the council would see this information in the future.
County Supervisor Tony Carter broached the idea that the town could still contribute money to the volunteer fire department.
Chief Richard Mabie of the Warren County Fire and Rescue Department told officials his agency benefits from cost-recovery funds collected through ambulance transportation of patients. Now the department can use this source of money to buy supplies for the volunteer stations. Approximately $600,000 collected goes back into the system, Mabie said.
Stanley noted that the county has tried to standardize fire and rescue vehicles, equipment and uniforms. Up until about two years ago, the county had a fund for this specific purpose. The county would match dollar for dollar when fire and rescue companies bought new equipment to ensure they all purchased the same kinds or brands, Stanley said. Standardization often had its advantages, he said, explaining that crews from different companies at a fire scene would be working on the same equipment.
The county helps fund the station not only to cover the cost of equipment but also to provide paid staff, Stanley noted.
Warren County budgeted approximately $560,000 this fiscal period to the Front Royal Volunteer Fire Department. That amount includes $20,000 budgeted by the county each period for fire equipment. The county has spent approximately $6.3 million for the department since fiscal 1997.
As Stanley explained, the number of paid firefighters at the stations has increased from four to seven to allow for day and night response coverage.
The county faces a challenge with providing staff for other stations. North Warren Volunteer Fire Department, for example, serves much of Front Royal but lies in the county.
Also at the meeting, officials discussed a stormwater drainage issue at the Catlett Mountain landfill. The state has asked the town and county to investigate a way to keep rainwater from flowing through the closed landfill. Town and county officials are considering a system to redirect the flow of stormwater around the landfill.
Stanley estimated the cost to design the storm conveyance channel at approximately $15,000. He has said the project should be a more cost-effective way to address the issue than proposed by the state.
The design may take 30-45 days and then the county would submit the documents to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality for review. Stanley estimated the county could seek bids for the project as early as the summer with the hope that construction would commence during the regular season.
The town would need to use funds from its reserves to pay for its share, Burke said.
At one point the county and town considered a more intensive reuse for the landfill, possibly for ball fields, that required flattening the site.
"I wouldn't say we've scrapped the plan but certainly we're looking at a less ambitious plan," Stanley said. "Let's take care of the environmental issues we need to take care of."
Stanley suggested using the site for more "passive" recreational activities such as hiking trails.
"It's a difficult, steep piece of property," Stanley said.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org