FRONT ROYAL – If all goes according to plan, the Rivermont Volunteer Fire Department will move out of its decrepit, 90-year-old facility into a new $5.6 million home this fall.
Mike Adamy, H&W Construction’s operation manager, explained that despite some delays from the COVID-19 pandemic, crews are still aiming to have the structure finished by the expected September completion date. While work was ahead of schedule before virus-related shutdowns, he said delays in material supply chains have resulted in work likely being completed when expected.
He explained that three workers were removed from the site due to potential exposure to the virus and were required to test negative before returning. When the first potential exposure occurred in early March, he said two subcontractors removed their crews from the site for two weeks.
"During the first exposure we did restrict all access to the job and only workers who had been on the job at the time of the potential exposure were allowed to remain working on the site. All tests were returned negative. Productivity was greatly reduced during this time period," he said.
He explained crews have been working mindfully and doing their best to stay safe while getting the job done.
“We’ve pushed along as efficiently as we could while still trying to maintain the safety of our workers and subcontractors,” he said. "They don't want to take it back to their family members, so it has changed our thinking."
Adamy explained last week that crews have their “foot on full throttle now.”
The structure, located at the corner of Rivermont and Stokes Airport roads, includes a 9,935-square-foot main building and a 5,859-square-foot apparatus bay. Features include a commercial kitchen, seven bathrooms, showers, bunk rooms for men and women, a locker room, a living area, a gym that will contain donated equipment and office space.
It also has a banquet hall that will double as a new polling location, storage areas and a communications room.
Joe Woodall, Rivermont's assistant fire chief, noted that every room has a purpose.
“We are essentially running a business with just volunteers. So we need office space to make that happen. We need shop space to maintain the apparatus. We need community space for fundraising to pay for the equipment and monthly bills,” he said.
The remaining work to be completed includes floors and fixture installations and painting on the inside. On the outside, remaining work includes the installation of stone and metal that will make up the exterior walls. Adamy added that septic work is nearing completion.
Woodall noted that the new facility is a “huge upgrade” and volunteers are “beyond excited and ready to make the move.”
In 2015, the top floor of Rivermont’s station was condemned due to fear of collapse, which resulted in the department not being able to hold fundraising events. Woodall noted that the structure is “riddled with black mold” and has a “buckling” rear wall held up by wooden beams. Additionally, he said the building floods “when it rains and even when it doesn’t rain.”
“It’s taken a beating over the years but has served us well,” Woodall said.
Safety, he said, is the main concern.
“It’s so long overdue for us. Just the safety side of moving…we are ready and extremely excited,” he said.
Woodall explained Rivermont has about 12 active volunteers along with administrative support and lifetime members. In addition to the new building, he said the department will also receive career staff to supplement volunteers, which is not possible now due to safety concerns.
“I hope the volunteer membership numbers jump up pretty quick,” he added.
Woodall said that, hopefully, the new building will last over 50 years.
As of now, he said there are no plans in store for the current facility when the department moves but talks have centered around a few options, including potentially turning one section of the property into a park with a picnic shelter.
"The community gave the fire department that piece of property. We want to give part of it back to the community," he said.