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County to revisit Toms Brook fire hall project

By Alex Bridges

Living quarters in the Toms Brook fire hall remain unusable nine months after Shenandoah County leaders gave renovation efforts the green light and agreed to help fund the project.

The Board of Supervisors plans to hold a work session Thursday to discuss, among several topics, the status of a project aimed at improving the living area in the Toms Brook Volunteer Fire Department for the county's paid firefighters.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Conrad Helsley said last week he would hope the county leaders could come to a resolution on the matter. Helsley noted that he had left the issue of the renovations up to then District 5 Supervisor Dennis Morris and his successor, Marsha Shruntz, because they represent Toms Brook and the fire hall. Helsley said he expects to hear more information from Shruntz at the work session and any recommendations she may have.

The board likely will have to address the issue of the expired permit issued for the renovations, Helsley added.

"We almost have to have new discussions if we're even going to do this or not doing it," Helsley said. "I don't know what her suggestions will be."

The board also would consult with the Toms Brook Volunteer Fire Department before moving forward on any recommendations, Helsley said.

The county's career firefighters assigned to work out of the Toms Brook building currently sleep in a front office furnished with two bunk beds. The sleeping area does not include separate accommodations for male and female firefighters. County officials had determined that the area in the second floor of the hall used for sleeping did not meet fire codes.

Supervisors in late March approved a memorandum of agreement with the volunteer organization for the renovation of the sleeping quarters by a vote of 5-1. Then District 5 Supervisor Dennis Morris supported the organization's request for the county's financial aid in pursuing the renovations. Morris at a previous work session advised the board the low bid for the project came in at just under $95,000 after the department negotiated for a lower cost.

At that time, Morris had suggested the county enter into a deal with the organization to provide the $95,000 needed for the renovations. Morris explained that the organization would need to go through the town's planning process to receive the necessary permits and that a contracted firm would complete the work in 90 days.

Fire company representatives approached the county in the summer of 2012 and asked for assistance but the board requested at the time that the organization provide a cost analysis of a previous quote for the remodeling as well as a financial statement of the company.

Information provided by Shruntz indicates that she and District 4 Supervisor Cindy Bailey met earlier this month with Toms Brook Volunteer Fire Department representatives to discuss the issues with the sleeping quarters.

Shruntz stated in an email to Yew that the permit issued by the county for the renovations expired in July and that the cost of the project has increased by 10 percent since the original agreement reached in March.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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