County weighs fire station repair, replacement

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County might build Rivermont Volunteer Fire Department a new home after all rather than fix its deteriorating station.

County officials learned Wednesday that repairs to the station could cost at least $200,000 but likely closer to $500,000. By comparison, a new station could cost $1.25 million to $2 million, depending on the design. The consensus from the meeting is that the county will pursue building a new station at the Warren County Airport.

Beahm declared the station unsafe earlier this summer after engineers found problems with the structure, particularly a rear wall bowing from the weight of the second floor and pressure from the outside. Beahm closed the second floor to occupancy as a precaution. The county also moved the polling place for Otterburn Precinct from the station to the airport.

The Building Committee heard from Building Official David Beahm and Max Clatterbuck, president of Lance Construction of Winchester, and other officials about the situation. Charles Prince and Kevin Wines, with the volunteer fire department, also attended the meeting.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Richard Traczyk commented that it didn’t make sense to spend more money on a substandard building especially since most vehicles don’t fit.

“I think what kinda bothers me is I think … we’re gonna go, pardon the expression, you know, piss money down a rat hole, and this thing isn’t gonna be any good in the end,” Traczyk said.

County Administrator Doug Stanley said $1.2 million could buy a building similar to one used by the North Warren Volunteer Fire Department without a second floor. For $2 million, the county could build one with a second floor and other amenities.

Officials couldn’t give a time frame as to when the county could either investigate the structure or begin designing a new station.

Fork District Supervisor Archie Fox asked staff to give the board total figures for both options to compare costs.

Beahm said the county likely would need to pursue the preliminary investigation into the structural problems before he would put together more precise cost estimates. Fire equipment would fit in a new building.

Fox also voiced concern about the repair option.

“But what’s the benefit to the county to go in and put $200,000 into this and then turn around and build a new fire department?” Fox asked.

“I think in the long run you’re better off (building a new station),” Stanley said.

Traczyk questioned how the county could pay for either option.

“We’re pretty flat right now; our income is our expenditures,” Traczyk said. “If we start getting into this stuff, we’ve gotta have tax increases to cover it. Or is there some way we could get around that?”

The county begins to save $275,000 after it pays off a loan in 2017, Stanley said. But the county could still pay for a new fire station if it financed the project, Stanley explained.

The county should move to shore up the wall now, Stanley suggested. Then it could take the preliminary steps to design and build a new station, should the board go that route, he noted.

Ruckman Engineering outlined in a June 25 report the repairs needed on the structure. Lantz provided an early estimate of $200,000 to make those repairs. The estimate covers a detailed scope of work but leaves out engineer costs, excavation of rock and contaminated soils, permit fees and the remediation of mold (seen in a utility room), asbestos and/or lead.

If the county chose to repair the structure, Beahm explained that it would need to pay a contractor to further investigate the rear wall at an estimated cost of $12,000, according Lantz’s information. This process would include shoring up the wall. The cost does not include engineering needed to review the proposal, rock excavation, relocation of utilities or permit fees.

Excavation could uncover more problems with the structure, Beahm said. He recommended that the county at least perform the preliminary investigation.

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