Pantops fire station

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The Pantops fire station is a proposed facility to increase the Albemarle County Fire and Rescue Department’s presence on Pantops Mountain, and part of the Capital Improvement Program. The proposed site is to be located on a 1-acre pad in the Peter Jefferson Place development. The station is called for in the Pantops Master Plan and the property will be deeded to the County by the owner of Peter Jefferson Place. The exact service area of the station has yet to be determined.

Ground was broken on March 7, 2017. [1]

History

County Board of Supervisors voted 5-1 in May 2007 to move ahead with a temporary station, which has been identified by Fire and Rescue officials as necessary to increase response times to neighborhoods on Pantops Mountain. The area is currently served in part on a contract basis by the City of Charlottesville, but that agreement will expire in 2009. Staff are currently identifying sites for a temporary station, which will be made permanent in 2014.

In December 2007, the County Board of Supervisors suggested revisiting the Pantops fire station initiative as a way to balance the Board’s five-year financial plan. Under review were both the need for the station as well as the mix of volunteer and career personnel. The Board’s questions required Fire and Rescue Chief Dan Eggleston to provide additional information before proceeding with a new temporary station set to open in July 2009.

January 2008 Supervisors meeting

At the Board’s meeting on January 23, 2008, Chief Dan Eggleston had the opportunity to explain again why he felt Pantops would only be served with a new station as well as career staff. He said it was crucial for Pantops to be fully operational by the time the City contract expires. Otherwise, he predicted the level of service would fail for the entire eastern half of the County. If the County were to renew the agreement with the City, it would likely cost $2 million a year.

Dennis Rooker asked if the city would still respond to county calls once the agreement lapses. Eggleston said a mutual aid agreement with the Charlottesville Fire Department would be put in place, but that this unpaid cooperation would only occur on the most urgent of calls. Chairman Ken Boyd asked if there was a way to pay to ensure that the City would continue to respond, and Eggleston responded that would make negotiating a mutual aid agreement much more difficult.

Eggleston also asked that the EMS revenue recovery funds that the County is planning on charging citizens’ insurance companies be used to further enhance the system. Eggleston said his department is on track to begin charging the fees beginning with the next fiscal year.

On the issue of staffing, Eggleston says the County is currently way ahead of the nationwide average of a one percent annual decline in the number fire/rescue volunteers. Eggleston says Albemarle gains two percent a year, but that figure would not be enough to come up with the 11 to 15 volunteers necessary to consistently staff the new station.

“Our current system as it stands today is short about 200 to 230 volunteers,” Eggleston said, adding that means many fire stations are currently undermanned. “It has been our strategy all along to supplement the system with career staff to ensure that that primary emergency unit gets out consistently and reliably. The 12 career staff for Pantops will ensure that fire engine response, with three people minimum and [Advanced Life Support] trained and equipped staff 24-7.”

Eggleston said an aggressive campaign will be undertaken to recruit volunteers for Pantops, but anyone extra would go to adding capacity.

Eggleston said if only 10 career employees were hired, that would leave two vacancies that would need to be filled. He estimated 11 to 15 volunteers would need to be recruited to fill the gap to ensure 24-7 coverage for Pantops, taking away from efforts to cover the rural areas.

Supervisor Rooker suggested that the Fire and Rescue Department attempt to pursue that strategy. Eggleston warned against budgeting for less than 12, and reminded the Board that when the Monticello Fire Station opened in 2002, he had to ask for more money to fully staff the station because not enough volunteers were fully trained the day it became operational.

Supervisor Ann Mallek suggested that the County experiment with going with 12 career staff for the foreseeable future, but that every effort be made to retain more volunteers. Supervisor David Slutzky asked the Department to provide an analysis of volunteer recruitment for urban areas versus rural areas. Supervisor Thomas suggested that the University of Virginia be brought into the discussion, given that much of the turnover each year is related to student volunteers.

The discussion ended with consensus that the Fire and Rescue Department proceed with the plans to hire 12 career staff to be in place when the temporary Pantops station opens in the summer of 2009.[2]

2009 Planning Commission deferral

The County Planning Commission heard a report from the Capital Improvement Program Oversight Committee at their meeting on January 13, 2009, at which the commission endorsed the committee's recommendation to defer the fire station, at a $6.5 million cost, from the five-year Capital Improvement Program.[3]

Concerns with the site

On September 15, 2009, Planning Commissioner Cal Morris said the Pantops Community Advisory Council is concerned that the construction of a fire station at this site will take away from open space in the Pantops area. Fire Chief Dan Eggleston said every effort would be made to minimize the station's imprint on the land by building it close to an existing maintenance shed.[4]

October 2010 critical slopes waiver

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Board accepts land

The Board of Supervisors voted to accept a 1.28 acre parcel of land from the Worrell Land and Development Company for the fire station. This came over the objections of one county resident who said a 2 acre parcel of land was required. [5]

References

  1. Web. County breaks ground on long-awaited Pantops fire station, News Article, Charlottesville Newsplex, March 7, 2017, retrieved March 7, 2017.
  2. Career-staffed Pantops Fire station reaffirmed by Board Charlottesville Tomorrow News Center, January 25, 2008 retrieved 29 Jun 2009.
  3. County planners review $100 million reduction to capital projects Charlottesville Tomorrow News Center, January 14, 2009 retrieved 29 Jun 2009.
  4. County planners clear way for Pantops fire station despite community concerns, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, September 17, 2009
  5. Web. Board of Supervisors approve Pantops rezoning, Aaron Richardson, Daily Progress, World Media Enterprises, December 14, 2011, retrieved December 22, 2011.