County supervisors were inclined to stick with their plans to build a new Philomont fire station on the old horse show grounds, rather than requests from area residents to renovate the existing fire station.
After outcry from the community over plans to build a new fire station on the grounds of the former Philomont horse show, county leaders agreed to commission a feasibility study on renovating the current station between the village’s general store and community center. That study found that such a fire station was feasible and safe, however the project would cost more.
Renovating and adding on to the current station would cost an estimated $26.9 million, while tearing it down and building a new station on the same spot would cost an estimated $27.8 million. The county had budgeted $21.9 million for the project, assuming they would be building a new fire station on the horse show grounds, which the volunteer fire department currently owns. The county’s budget item includes all expenses—such as fit-out and furniture—while the renovation or replacement study’s estimates do not.
The volunteer department also has since told the county it would charge $2 million for the current fire house property, more than five times its assessed value at this year, $383,120 according to county records. They have offered to donate the horse show grounds. Volunteer department leaders have backed plans to use the horse show grounds.
And even the proposals to renovate and expand the old station, or tear it down and build on the same site, did not satisfy the voices opposing the county’s plans to build one on the horse show grounds. County and fire-rescue staff members have also been skeptical of plans to use the current, smaller site; it would not allow the standard, one-story, 5-acre design for a Loudoun fire-rescue station.
The current fire-rescue station is not safely usable by modern standards. According to Loudoun Fire-Rescue, the equipment bays are too small for modern gear and vehicles; the layout does not allow for proper decontamination, while cancer is the biggest killer for firefighters; it has inadequate sleeping, administrative and exercise space; there are no separate showers and locker rooms for men and women; and, perhaps most ironically for a fire station, it has an inadequate fire protection system.
The higher costs for using the current site dissuaded supervisors during a briefing at their meeting Oct. 5. Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) said the majority of public input his office has received has been in favor of using the horse show grounds, despite the push from residents for reusing the current site during two public input meetings on the project. John Myers, president of the Loudoun Career Firefighter Association, has also spoken repeatedly in favor of the horse show grounds station, citing firefighter safety.
The horse show, which the volunteers hosted as a fundraiser since 1957, was retired last year.