Maintenance of public infrastructure – roads, bridges, dams, ports, etc. – is challenging for government at all levels. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) releases a periodic report that scores each state, and the scores are disappointing. The 2017 Report gives the nation, as a whole, a grade of D-plus. Virginia’s 2015 grade was C-minus. On most any report card, those grades would get a stern admonishment from teachers and parents, with a strong recommendation to do better.
While ASCE does not grade at the local level, Fairfax County always tries to do better. Most county facilities are planned and built via bond funding approved by the voters. That’s why you see bond referenda on nearly every November ballot – for schools, parks, fire and police stations, for example. In fact, the planned replacement of Jefferson Fire Station 18 near the intersection of Route 50 and Graham Road, will be underway soon, utilizing public safety bond funds approved in 2012. Station 18 originally was constructed in 1955, with additions and renovations in 1960 and 1985, so it is long overdue for modernization, including sleeping quarters for female firefighters and EMTs.
The existing functions of Station 18 will be moved to a temporary site on South Street at Annandale Road. That currently vacant lot will be cleared, and a temporary facility constructed, to accommodate a fully operational fire station with personnel and fire apparatus. The construction contract for the temporary station was awarded to Hitt Contracting Inc, a local company. Construction will begin on or around June 1, and the completed temporary site will be ready for move-in by late November. Fire and Rescue staff will be housed at the temporary location for nearly two years while the permanent site is rebuilt. Once the permanent fire station is operational, structures on the temporary site will be dismantled, and the site restored. Station 18 must meet all county regulations, building codes, and zoning categories.
The 2015 public safety bond contained planning funding for Station 26, on Edsall Road in Mason District which, according to county tax records, was built in 1960, and renovated in the mid-1970s. Mason District has six fire stations within its borders. In addition to 18 and 26, Stations 8 and 23 (Annandale and West Annandale), Station 10 (Bailey’s Crossroads), and Station 28 (Fort Buffalo/Seven Corners) serve the Mason District community. Maintaining and upgrading the stations, which are “home” to fire and rescue personnel during their 24-hour shifts, is important to the firefighter’s approach to a very dangerous job: “everybody goes home.”
Infrastructure maintenance can be a long and expensive community process – location of temporary and permanent facilities, planning space requirements as technology and industry changes and, ultimately, how to pay for it all. Fire stations provide an excellent example of changing needs – apparatus is larger and heavier today, more women are joining the fire services, rescue calls outpace fire calls, and traffic congestion increases response times, regardless of lights and sirens! With good planning and supportive public funding, grades from ASCE can be transformed into honor roll status.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.