During the Williamsburg City Council’s June 2017 work session, a consultant recommend the city build a new fire station and expand and renovate the police station, both at their current locations. During subsequent public forums, I recommended that council consider other options, including alternative locations, based on the following observations:
- An alternate fire station location would avoid the cost and disruption associated with a temporary facility during construction and eliminate the risks associated with maintaining the fire station and emergency operations center adjacent to the railroad tracks. Currently, any rail HazMat incident near the train station could paralyze both fire and EOC operations when they would be needed the most. Furthermore, operating out of a temporary facility for 15 months presents many logistic and budget challenges. Ironically, later in the summer, WFD lost use of its support areas in the fire station (shift offices, kitchen, restrooms and sleeping areas) due to smoke damage from a HVAC unit fire. Temporary trailers and alternate eating arrangements illustrated how disruptive even partial, temporary arrangements can be to fire department operations.
- Regarding the police station, the current site is not large enough to meet security and operations requirements for today’s police department. Obvious deficiencies include inadequate setback distances and the lack of space for secured parking. Furthermore, the consultant-recommended building expansion would eliminate the lower level parking. This would require more of the surface lot parking spaces be reserved for police vehicles, thereby depleting the public parking available for the library and the Stryker Center. (Additional parking spaces would be lost during construction.)
An update from city staff during the recent budget retreat offered some good news: The city is now considering alternate sites for a new fire station. Unfortunately, it still plans to move forward with an expanded police station at the current location, despite the negative impact to parking. With the library evaluating its facilities needs and the potential repurposing of the existing fire station site, council should insist on a more comprehensive analysis to identify a solution that satisfies all stakeholders. Making a 40-year decision such as this deserves nothing less.
Let council know what you think.
Editor’s note: Maslin is running for election to city council in May.