City Council approves second fire station on Capitol Landing Road, renovations to existing station

Staff writer

A new fire station on Capitol Landing Road and renovations to the existing station on Lafayette Street were unanimously approved by Williamsburg City Council Thursday.

Council members agreed that locating a second city fire station along Capitol Landing Road would improve emergency response times throughout the city and reduce an already-heavy workload on firefighters at the existing city fire station.

Of the $11 million in general obligation bonds earmarked for these projects, about $5,945,500 will go toward the construction of the new Capitol Landing Road fire station, according to a presentation given to council by Fire Chief Pat Dent, while $5,239,260 will pay for renovation costs for the existing fire station.

The Capitol Landing Road station is expected to be 14,000 square feet, and have three bay doors for emergency vehicles. Necessary renovations at the Lafayette Street station include a roof replacement, new apparatus bay doors, re-routing sanitary lines for the building’s plumbing and renovation of the personnel area. In total, the renovation is expected to add 2,000 square feet to the existing station.

While the decision was made to build a second fire station, it’s still years away from becoming a reality, Dent said. The city will now enter into a three-month bidding process with contractors, and following that, Dent said he expects the design process for the new station to last nine months.

“It would be at least a year from now before any construction could begin at all, and that’s if everything fell into a perfect scenario,” he said. “We’ve said from the beginning, if we got the go-ahead to do it, it’s going to be a two-year project.”

The city began to explore the possibility of replacing or renovating the city’s fire and police stations in 2016, Dent said. The city’s fire and police stations were both built in the 1970s, according to a past Virginia Gazette reports. These early conversations and a building study of the police and fire stations led City Council to issue bonds for renovation or replacement of the two buildings in 2017.

At its January work session, Council first weighed the benefits of building a second fire station versus remodeling the existing station. Members were split, and asked city staff to conduct additional analyses to find areas in the city where a second station could be built that would have the most dramatic effect on emergency response times.

Dent said that the addition of a second fire station at Capitol Landing Road would improve the fire department’s ability to respond to emergency calls throughout the city within a 4-minute time window by 18.5 percent, while its ability to respond to calls within an 8-minute time window would only increase by less than 1 percent.

“If you look at the existing station and Capitol Landing Road, there’s a minimal gain in the 8-minute response time, but in the 4-minute response time, there’s an 18 and a half-percent gain,” he said. “Each person could look at this differently, but really, for making an impact on the largest number (of people), that 18.5 percent gain in the four-minute response time is what we consider to be optimal.”

That, paired with rising emergency call volumes year over year, made the decision straight-forward for Council members, they said.

“I think at the end of the day, it’s just about making sure that residents receive the value of the quality of services that the EMS and fire services provide,” Council member Benny Zhang said.

According to Dent’s presentation, the number of annual emergency responses has steadily increased since 2005, most recently jumping from 4,138 calls in 2017 to 4,605 calls in 2018. Dent said he doesn’t expect that upward trend to slow down anytime soon, which necessitates a second station.

“The cost, lowering the call volume, the impact that it has on personnel every year, all — to me — leads us to having the need for a second station,” Vice-Mayor Doug Pons said. “I think it’s time that we make the decision to build a second station, and based on the data and the presentation, staff are confident that the Capitol Landing Road area is the right place to be.”

Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.

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