Glade Hill station proposal goes to auction | Smith Mountain Lake Local News

Franklin County is moving closer to building a new fire and rescue station in Glade Hill. Supervisors approved the publicity for bids on the project at its June 15 meeting.

Plans for a new Glade Hill station have been underway since 2007 when a report noted that the current Glade Hill Fire Department building has structural issues that make it unsuitable for renovation or expansion. Since then, the county purchased a 5.49-acre property at Virginia 40 and Turtle Hill Road in 2016 as the future site for the station.

At the June 15 meeting, engineers from Thompson and Litton presented plans for the proposed station. The firm was commissioned to develop floor plans and a cost estimate for the project late last year.

Jack Murphy, senior vice president of project management and business development for Thompson and Litton, estimated the cost to build the station at just over $5.25 million. This estimate is slightly more than the county has in reserve funds.

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Brian Carter, the county’s chief financial officer, said the county would be $500,000 short of needed reserve funds, but added that the amount could change depending on bids from construction companies for the project.

Gills Creek District Representative Lorie Smith said the project was already $2.5 million over the county’s original budget. Escalating construction costs would also likely rise, she said.

Smith also asked if the project would take away from other priorities the county planned to fund in the near future. “This project, in my humble opinion, we cannot afford,” she said.

Blackwater District Representative Ronald Mitchell, a longtime county volunteer firefighter, was the most vocal opponent of the current Glade Hill station proposal. He said the project has grown in size and scope far beyond what department volunteers originally requested.

Mitchell said the proposed station site on Turtle Hill Road is also not the best location due to issues with the small size of the property and the site’s distance from oncoming traffic on Virginia 40. The new building also may not be able to accommodate all of the department’s fire and rescue vehicles, he said.

“County staff have been asked to be quiet about the severity of the location,” Mitchell said. “What kind of leaders are we here on this council when we ask staff to be quiet when they are here to give us advice. It really upsets me.

The proposed station has divided Glade Hill volunteers, according to Mitchell. He said some are worried if they don’t go ahead with this project, they might not receive funding for a new station in the future.

“The volunteers were told that if they didn’t take it, the money would be spent elsewhere,” Mitchell said.

Another Mitchell concern was the county’s decision to have paid and volunteer firefighters and EMS share the Glade Hill station. He said the suit did not work and would eventually lead to the end of volunteer fire and rescue services in the county.

Union Hall representative Tommy Cundiff disagreed with Mitchell. He said there was no need to construct a separate building just for paid fire and EMS services.

Cundiff said it was time to move forward with the project, making a motion to allow bidding. The motion passed 5-2 with Mitchell and Smith voting against.

Boone District Representative Ronnie Thompson stressed after the vote that putting the project in competition does not mean the station will be built. He said that would only be the first step to see how much the project will cost.

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